Cullowhee, N.C. – Gardner-Webb catcher Justin Kunz belted a two-out solo home run in the top of the sixth inning after Western Carolina had rallied to erase a four-run deficit as the Runnin’ Bulldogs handed the Catamounts a 5-4 loss Wednesday evening in nonconference action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Gardner-Webb (9-8) plated four runs in the first inning, capitalizing on a pair of walks and a three-run home run by Chandler Redmond as a part of the rally to put the Catamounts in a hole early. WCU used a pair of two-run frames in the second and fifth to rally back, tying the game on a two-RBI single by Justice Bigbie in the fifth.
However, Kunz belted a 1-0 pitch out to left to push GWU back in front with the ‘Dogs bullpen slamming the door over the final four frames.
Bigbie stretched his active hitting streak to a team-best nine-straight games with a 1-for-4 performance for the Catamounts, adding to his team-lead with two RBI. Redshirt senior Matthew Koehler posted a 2-for-3 outing including his third triple of the year, adding a walk to reach three times in stretching his active streak to 14-straight. Sophomore Daylan Nanny likewise extended his reached base safely streak to 14 with a 1-for-4 showing, beating out a single deep into the hole at shortstop.
Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the second inning, WCU cut the deficit in half on consecutive run-scoring extra-base hits. Immanuel Wilder tripled past a diving centerfielder to score Luke Robinson before freshman catcher Michael Goehrig snuck a double down the third-base line for both the first extra-base hit and RBI of his collegiate career.
In the fifth, a two-out double by Bryson Parks ignited a Catamount rally as WCU managed to load the bases with back-to-back walks after the two-bagger. Bigbie then drove the first pitch of his at bat into center field scoring Parks and Prater to knot the game at four.
The momentum was seemingly short-lived, though, as Kunz untied the game with his solo homer in the sixth with the visitor’s bullpen taking over from there to secure Gardner-Webb’s fourth consecutive series win over WCU.
Reliever Ryan Mitschele (0-1) was the tough-luck loser for the Catamounts, fanning three over a five inning relief effort. The Statesville, N.C., native scattered four hits with the one run allowed. Mitschele settled things on the mound after a shaky start from true freshman Eric Wallington, who posted his first career strikeout but struggled with control with four walks in the opening frame.
Luke Williamson (1-0) scored the victory out of the bullpen for Gardner-Webb, the third of five arms used by the Runnin’ Bulldogs and part of the solid backend relief work. He struck out one in 2.1 innings of hitless, scoreless relief while Langdon Wilson set-up Jarrett Thompson for his fourth save of the year, both tossing a scoreless inning with a strikeout.
Starter Aaron Stewart struck out two in 2.0 innings while Eugene Snyder countered three walks with three Ks, surrendering two earned runs on four hits over 2.2 innings.
Kunz led the Runnin’ Bulldogs with a 2-for-4 showing at the plate with both hits going for extra bases including a double and the solo homer. Outfielder Mitch McLendon posted a 2-for-3 showing also doubling with a walk. Redmond led the way with a game-high three RBI on his first inning round-tripper.
Western Carolina (10-8) returns to action this weekend as the Catamounts open Southern Conference play with a three-game series at ETSU (14-5) in Johnson City, Tenn. All three games are slated to be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio online at CatamountSports.com, with the series to be bookended Friday and Sunday with ETSU’s SoCon Digital Network video broadcast. First pitch on Friday is 6:00 pm.