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Warhawks force second game

An eight-run eighth inning capped a ULM comeback as the Warhawks downed Western Kentucky University, 11-3, on Saturday morning at Riddle-Pace Field.

ULM kept its own title hopes alive with the win and spoiled the Hilltoppers’ unbeaten run through the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship. The Warhawks avenged an opening-day run-rule loss to the Toppers and set up a showdown between the two squads to decide who will advance to the championship game.

Early struggles at the plate kept ULM from recording a single hit until the fifth inning. But the Warhawks’ bats came alive and they racked up 10 hits on the game—six coming in the eighth.

Perry Smith led the way with three hits, and Jordy Poche and Matt Collins added two apiece. Collins and Smith also contributed three RBI and two RBI, respectively.

Ben Soignier earned the win on the mound for the Warhawks, coming in from left field to take over pitching duties in the top of the eighth inning. He held the Toppers scoreless, giving up just one hit in 1.2 innings to seal the victory. Starter Keith Christensen kept the game close through 6.2 innings, holding WKU to three runs on six hits.

ULM also took advantage of WKU pitching mistakes. Toppers hurler Shane Cameron struggled with his command, and the Warhawks made him work for outs, waiting out eight walks from the WKU starter.

Dayleg put the Toppers on the scoreboard first in the second inning. The shortstop smacked a hit deep to left center field and legged it out for a triple, driving Matt Rice home. Hightower collected his seventh RBI of the tournament when his fielder’s choice in the fourth inning brought Jake Wells across home plate.

The Warhawks cut the deficit in half with back-to-back hits followed by patient at-bats in the fifth inning. Jordy Poche and Perry Smith led off with a single and a double, respectively, and Jon Prevost and Ben Soignier reached base on balls to walk the lead runner home.

WKU regained its two-run advantage as Hightower reached base for the third time in four at-bats. He waited out a walk to take first base, advanced to third on a Chad Cregar single and scored when Rice put the ball in play to center field.

But a two-run seventh inning drew ULM even with the Hilltoppers. Smith slammed a solo homer over the right field wall, and Prevost and Soignier again gave the Warhawks baserunners to work with through walks. Prevost took four balls and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With first base open, the Toppers elected to intentionally walk Soignier and brought in lefty Evan Teague to face Matt Collins. On the second pitch, Collins connected for a single that brought Prevost around from second and tied the game.

The Warhawks went ahead in the eighth as the bottom of the order stepped up with three straight hits to score two runs. Nick Wade and Poche combined for back-to-back doubles before Smith tallied his sixth hit of the tournament to give ULM some insurance. But what started as a come-from-behind rally turned into a rout as the Warhawks continued to put balls in play and bring runners across home plate.