Greenville, S.C. – Western Carolina erupted for five-runs in a decisive home half of the seventh inning on Sunday evening, twice overcoming deficits to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 8-5, in the finale of the First Pitch Invitational held at Fluor Field at the West End, the home of the Greenville Drive.
WCU trailed 3-1 after three and a half innings and again by a lone marker, 4-3, after the top of the seventh before the five-run outburst gave the Catamounts their third-straight seasonal victory and the third-consecutive in the head-to-head series with Ohio State dating back to 2007.
Five Catamounts posted two-hit games as WCU out-hit the Buckeyes, 12-to-11. Redshirt senior Matthew Koehler stayed hot on the week, belting a solo home run in a 2-for-4 affair while middle infielders Will Prater and Jalen Jones both posted 2-for-3, one RBI performances with Prater tripling and Jones reaching a third time on a walk, adding a stolen base. Sophomore Immanuel Wilder laced a two-run double down the right field line as a part of the five-run frame in a 2-for-4 showing while junior Luke Robinson matched Wilder with a pair of singles and two runs driven in.
WCU turned three double plays on Sunday and Ohio State stranded a dozen runners on base.
As the designated home team in Sunday’s neutral field meeting, Western Carolina grabbed the early lead in the bottom of the second inning as Justin Sparks lifted a sacrifice fly in to center field to score Luke Robinson from third.
However, Ohio State lit the scoreboard for three runs on three hits in the top of the fourth, erasing WCU’s edge and seizing the two-run edge. A WCU error aided the Buckeye rally as Brent Todys plated a run on a double off the “Green Monster” in left field before Nolan Clegg drove home two on a double of his own.
The Catamounts clawed back in the fourth and fifth innings with Prater legging out a triple before scoring on a RBI single by Jones in the fourth and Koehler tying the game in the fifth on his third home run of the season in the fifth. Ohio State (7-7) regained its one-run edge, 4-3, in the top of the seventh as Dominic Canzone belted a one-out home run to right center.
Pinch hitter Andrew Robinson keyed the Catamount five-run seventh, laying down a perfect bunt that hugged the infield dirt down the third-base line before Daylan Nanny was plunked. Koehler sacrificed both into scoring position and Bigbie was intentionally walked after a 3-0 count to load the bases. Luke Robinson put the Catamounts in front with a two-run single up the middle with Prater lifting a sac fly into left to make it a two-run affair, 6-4. Wilder then delivered the big blow, dropping a double down the right field line to score two.
Ohio State added a second home run by pinch hitter Nate Romans in the top of the eighth that provided the final tally, though the Buckeyes did threaten in the ninth. OSU loaded the bases with a one-out walk and single before a second base hit loaded the bases. However, a line drive to Jalen Jones ended the game.
Junior transfer Jacob Corn (2-0) – the second of three arms used by WCU on Sunday – scored the win in relief of redshirt senior starter Taylor Purus who allowed three runs – only one of which was earned – in 5.1 innings. The Hudson, N.C., native countered five walks with six strikeouts. Corn scattered four hits over 2.2 innings with a pair of earned runs allowed, posting a walk and a strikeout. Redshirt sophomore Chase Walter earned his first collegiate save, striking out one and working out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth to secure WCU’s victory.
Ohio State reliever Mitch Milheim (0-1) took the loss after being tagged for four earned runs on just two hits in two-thirds of an inning of work. Starter Griffan Smith struck out three against a walk, allowing three runs on eight hits – the first of five Buckeye pitchers used.
Canzone singled twice while Clegg drove home two on a fourth-inning double to pace the Buckeyes’ efforts offensively.
Western Carolina (8-5) returns home to open a five-game home stand on Wednesday, hosting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium with first pitch at 4:00 pm.