Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina baseball split a Sunday doubleheader with the St. John’s Red Storm, falling in the opener, 5-2, before claiming the night cap, 13-4, at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The three-game series was reduced to just the Sunday doubleheader due to rain on Friday and unfavorable playing conditions on Saturday.
The loss in the opener stretched WCU’s drought against St. John’s to five-straight while the game two win for WCU was its first over St. John’s since taking 2-of-3 from the Red Storm in Cullowhee in the 1999 season. WCU’s 4-1 start is its best since 2012 when the Catamounts also opened 4-1 through their first five games.
Sophomore infielder Justice Bigbie paced the Catamounts offensively in Sunday’s two games, finishing 4-for-8 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored. Classmate Will Prater doubled as a part of a 3-for-7 showing while redshirt junior Andrew Bullock hit a two-run pinch hit home run as a part of driving in a team-best four runs in the two games.
Western Carolina (4-1) wraps-up its season-opening home stand on Tuesday and Wednesday, hosting unbeaten Indiana State (6-0) out of the Missouri Valley Conference for a pair of midweek games. First pitch both days is scheduled for 4:00 pm with both games set to air on ESPN+ (subscription required).
Game One – St. John’s 5, Western Carolina 2
Western Carolina pushed across a pair of runs in the home half of the fourth inning to tie the series opener at two apiece on Sunday afternoon. However, St. John’s got both markers back and one for insurance half an inning later in the top of the fifth before holding on for the 5-2, seven-inning victory over the Catamounts in game one.
Trailing by two through three and a half complete, Luke Robinson bounced a one-out double down the first base line before taking third on a wild pitch. Andrew Bullock then ripped a single through the right side to put WCU on the scoreboard, down 2-1. Bullock later scored the game-tying run on a two-out RBI single into center by freshman infielder Jalen Jones, one of his team-best two hits in the opener.
However, a one-out single followed by a pair of walks loaded the bases for St. John’s in the top of the fifth inning. Infielder Carson Bartels bounced one up the middle for a would-be inning-ending double-play ball, but an error allowed everyone to reach safely, pushing across the go-ahead run. A bases loaded walk and a run-scoring infield ground-out provided the remaining two markers to score for the 5-2 advantage.
WCU threatened in both the fifth and sixth innings by putting two runners on, but were unable to mound a rally over the final three at bats in suffering its first loss of the season.
Catamount starter Chase Walter (0-1) was the tough-luck loser for WCU, surrendering five runs – four of which were earned – on six hits, countering two walks with four strikeouts. Sophomore Zach Franklin kept the home squad within striking distance over the final 2.2 scoreless innings, working around a pair of hits and two walks with three strikeouts out of the bullpen.
Brandon Miller singled twice for two of St. John’s eight hits in the opener while Sean McGeehan homered as a part of scoring twice to lead the Johnnies. Starter Sean Mooney (1-0) picked up the victory, striking out seven over five innings of five-hit, two-run work on the mound. Joe LaSorsa collected his first save, tossing the final two innings with three strikeouts against a walk of two-hit, scoreless relief.
Game Two – Western Carolina 13, St. John’s 4
Sophomore Justice Bigbie belted a three-run opposite field home run to right field in the third inning to push Western Carolina ahead, 3-2, and the Catamounts would never trail again, earning the doubleheader split with a 13-4 victory in Sunday’s series finale.
With St. John’s within a run at 5-4 following Sean McGeehan’s second home run of the game, WCU later erupted for an eight-run eighth inning to cruise to the victory.
Bigbie finished 3-for-4 with three RBI while Justin Sparks also plated three runs in a 2-for-4 showing including a double off the fence in center field. Andrew Bullock blasted a two-run homer to left field as a part of a three-RBI effort with Matthew Koehler adding to the game two fireworks with a rocket to right field, finishing 2-for-2 off the bench.
Redshirt senior LHP Taylor Purus (1-0) scored the victory, striking out a season-high eight over six innings. The Hudson, N.C., native scattered four runs on six hits, stranding three runners. Relievers Jack Snyder and Jacob Corn combined to toss the final three frames of one-hit, scoreless work out of the bullpen. Snyder struck out two and Corn one in the winning effort.
McGeehan led the Johnnies with a 3-for-4, three RBI effort including two home runs – three in the doubleheader combined – while Ryan Markey finished 2-for-3, but was gunned out at home in an attempted double steal in the second inning.
St. John’s starter Jeff Belge (0-2) took the loss, surrendering four runs on three hits over three innings, the first of eight Red Storm pitchers to work in the finale. Belge struck out four against three walks while the seven relievers combined for three K’s on the evening.