Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oxford Education: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

■ Why the "Hilltoppers"?

The operations of Western Kentucky State Normal School were moved from its forerunner, Southern Normal School, to a commanding hill on the southwestern portion of Bowling Green on February 4, 1911. The move was completed as the entire student body marched to the new site, carrying various articles of school equipment.

Since the summit of "the Hill" rises 232 feet above nearby Barren River and the comparatively level plain that surrounds it, it was only natural that the athletes who represented the institution should come to be known as the "Hilltoppers."

Still, the name did not come into use until the 1925-26 school year. Prior to that, Westen teams were commonly referred to as "Pedagogues" or "Teachers" The first WKU uniform to bear the Hilltopper nickname was worn in 1927.
■ And the story of their mascot, as told in Chapter 12, a blog:

The mascot, who is a giant red blob, is simply called Big Red. If you watch enough ESPN, you’ve seen Big Red before, as he appears on many a SportsCenter commercial. Big Red was designed in the late 1970’s. Since it’s really difficult to convey visually what a “Hilltopper” might look like, the person commissioned to design the mascot didn’t even try. Captain Caveman was used to come up with some of the early prototypes. So, Big Red really, truely is “nothing.” Just a big red blob. I think he (or she) is pretty cool, though.
WKU Baseball Earns Program's First-Ever NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid

Following one of the most successful seasons in the program's 90-year history, Western Kentucky University (39-18) received an at-large bid to the 2009 NCAA Baseball Tournament, earning a three-seed in the Oxford, Miss. Regional. The Hilltoppers, who won a share of the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Regular Season Championship, will be making their fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament, third in the last six years, and back-to-back appearances for the first time in history.
■ As of Tuesday morning, Western Kentucky is ranked 44th in RPI and 49th in ISR by Boyd's World. Their Strength of Schedule is ranked 89th (compared to Mizzou's 18th)

■ Offical website:


Schedule & Results

- Team BA: .331; 80 HR:
- Team ERA: 5.40
- Ace pitcher: Matt Hightower, 6-3; 3.92 ERA; Opp BA .271; 80-1/3 IP, 32 BB, 54 SO

Media Guide
■ Quotes from WKU's website:

SMALL WORLD: The last time WKU and Missouri met on the diamond, the Tigers head coach, Tim Jamieson, was finishing up his senior season at fellow Sun Belt Conference school New Orleans. The Hilltoppers took the one and only meeting with Missouri 5-4 on March 11, 1981 in Panama City, Fla. That 1981 Topper team went on to win 41 games and win the Ohio Valley Conference North Division.

TITLETOWN: WKU's two tournament titles in the last five seasons is the most over that span in the Sun Belt Conference. The Toppers also won a share of the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Regular Season crown for the first time in school history.

SEEING 20-20: Junior third baseman Wade Gaynor needs one stolen base to become the first player in WKU history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a single season.

HOME RUN TEAR: HOME RUN TEAR: Wade Gaynor ranks third all-time at WKU with 40 career home runs (22 this season) while teammate Chad Cregar is fourth with 38 (17 this year). is a message board for fans of Western Kentucky. Some quotes from a May 15th discussion on the Baseball Board:

01Topper: Baseballers in a slump. The season comes down to one game tomorrow at 1:00, for all the marbles. Talk about a week finish. We've lost 4 in a row (including two by 6 runs & one by 8 at home). Even with a win tomorrow, we probably have to make the SBC finals for an at-large bid.

Hammer: this does not seem to be the same team I have been watching this season, we are trying to play our way out a championship and out of an at-large bid.

therightcall: you should be able to expect more out of your ace

hilltoppertom: We are all disappointed with the way the regular season ended. I hope the team comes out to play in the Sun Belt tournament with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove and I think they will. I believe when WKU is hitting on all cylinders they can go deep in theNCAA tournament

The bats go silent (Bowling Green Daily News):

“I don’t have (an explanation),” WKU coach Chris Finwood said. “We were terrible at the plate. It’s just a shame. I don’t know how that happens because we didn’t face good pitching today.”
. . .
Even more humbling for the Hilltoppers is the fact that they were stymied in the nightcap by a ULM pitcher who hadn’t started a game this season. ULM’s Corey Brown, who had only thrown 31 2⁄3 innings in 16 appearances, threw 7 1⁄3 innings and gave up only two earned runs on six hits and three walks.
■ RockMNation has a few nuggets in Know Your NCAA Regional Opponent: 3-seed Western Kentucky:
• In all, the closest thing WKU has to a marquee win is the win in Lexington and the strong performance against Troy. They beat who they needed to beat to make the tourney, but there's no single outstanding result.

• As a whole, pretty much everybody on the team has at least a .400 on-base %--the team as a whole gets on base a ridiculous 42.8% of the time. You don't score 8.8 runs per game without getting on base a ton, I guess.
The College Heights Herald reported on the Toppers changing pitching schedule back on April 28:

Hightower pitched his third Friday night game of the season after pitching the season's first six Saturday games.

Coach Chris Finwood gave junior pitcher Matt Ridings the chance to become the Friday starter this season after going 10-3 with a team-best 3.88 ERA in 16 appearances in 2008, mostly pitching on Saturdays, but moved him back to Saturday starts before the April 10-12 home series with New Orleans.

Ridings went 4-0 in six Friday appearances before pitching the last two innings of Western's 10-9 win at Kentucky on April 8, earning his second career save.

"That happened to be on a Wednesday, and I couldn't have come back to throw on Friday," Ridings said. "They moved me back to Saturday, and Hightower's throwing really well, so it just happened to work out both ways for us."

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