Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina baseball had a flair for the dramatic on Saturday, scoring late to sweep both ends of a doubleheader to complete the three-game sweep of its season-opening nonconference series over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Junior Luke Robinson blasted a walk-off home run as the leadoff man in the bottom of the ninth inning as WCU rallied past Oakland, 9-8, to claim the series with a win in Saturday’s game one. Then, the Catamounts pushed across 11 late runs in the seventh and eighth innings to again rally, completing the sweep with a 12-2 victory in the nightcap.
WCU’s three-game series sweep is its first since taking all three against VMI in Cullowhee in late April of 2017. It also marked WCU’s first sweep of a nonconference foe since taking all three at Kansas State in late March of the 2016 season.
Robinson homered three times in Saturday’s twin bill with four RBI while junior transfer
Sophomore infielder Will Prater paced the Catamounts in Saturday’s doubleheader finishing 4-for-7 (.571) with four singles, driving in one and scoring three runs. He was also part of turning a pair of double plays in the field as the Catamounts only committed one error in the doubleheader.
Catamount pitching scattered the 10 earned runs over the two-game set, striking out 17 against 15 by the Oakland staff. Both victories were scored in relief roles as transfer Jacob Corn struck out three in 2.1 innings out of the bullpen to record his first win for the Purple & Gold while sophomore RHP Zach Franklin was very efficient, fanning six with just one hit allowed in 5.1 innings of shutout work.
Western Carolina (3-0) continues its season-opening eight-game homestand next weekend, hosting St. John’s for a three-game series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Game one is scheduled for a 4:00 pm first pitch next Friday, Feb. 22.
Game One – Western Carolina 9, Oakland 8
Trailing by two, 7-5, through seven complete, Western Carolina grabbed its first lead of the game in the home half of the eighth inning, 8-7, by plating a three-spot. Freshman Jalen Jones laced a two-run triple off the fence in center field, scoring Will Prater and Matthew Koehler to tie the game at seven apiece. The next batter, pinch hitter Immanuel Wilder, then punched a run-scoring single through the left side to give the Catamounts the edge just three outs shy of the series win.
However, Oakland was able to knot the game in the top of the ninth, pushing across the tying marker on a two-out wild pitch after Mario Camilletti doubled and Matt Dileo singled to put runners at the corners.
Luke Robinson jumped on a pitch early in his at-bat in the home half of the ninth, smashing a shot over the fence just to the left of the center field batter’s eye to set off a wild celebration. Robinson also crushed a two-run home run to right field in the seventh inning, ultimately homering in back-to-back at-bats.
Redshirt senior LHP Taylor Purus scattered eight hits over 6.2 innings of work in the starting role, striking out six against just one walk with a pair of hit batters. He gave way to Jacob Corn (1-0) who finished the final inning and a third, working around a pair of walks with three strikeouts while allowing three runs on four hits.
Three Golden Grizzlies posted multi-hit games as Matt Dileo and Drew Demumbrum both finished 3-for-5 with Dileo tripling and scoring two runs. Mario Camilletti posted a 2-for-4 showing at the plate with a double.
Reliever Beau Keathley (0-1) was saddled with the loss, allowing four runs on five hits including the walk-off home run. Andrew Hoffman tossed five scoreless innings, limiting WCU to just four hits in the starting role.
Game Two – Western Carolina 12, Oakland 2
Western Carolina came alive over its final two at-bats, scoring 11 runs on seven hits and took advantage of four run-scoring wild pitches to rally past Oakland in the seventh and eighth innings for the doubleheader and series sweep, 12-2.
Luke Robinson’s fourth-inning home run was the first hit for the Catamounts – and WCU’s only base knock through the first six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, though, pinch hitter Kitt Capell drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at two just ahead of
Bullpen issues in the eighth allowed the Catamounts to tack on five insurance runs as Andrew Bullock (walk) and Will Prater (single) both reached ahead of freshman Michael Goehrig who likewise drew a free pass to load the bases. From there, four wild pitches helped contribute to the five runs scoring.
Junior transfer Jack Snyder struck out two in 3.2 innings of work in his first start for the Catamounts. He held Oakland to two runs on four hits, issuing one free pass. He was lifted by sophomore Zach Franklin who started his relief appearance with a strikeout to limit the Oakland rally to just two runs. At one point between the sixth and seventh innings, Franklin recorded four strikeouts in retiring five-straight.
Mario Camilletti (2-for-4) had two of Oakland’s five hits in the finale to pace the Golden Grizzlies (0-3).
Oakland starter Cameron Fuller was brilliant through a five-inning start, limiting the potent Catamount offense to a run on one hit – the Robinson homer – working around four walks with five strikeouts. Reliever Nino Puckett was saddled with the loss, giving up four runs on two hits with three walks, while Max Lebrato and Jacob Raymond were touched for seven runs on five hits, walking and striking out a pair.