Cullowhee, N.C. – Redshirt senior LHP Taylor Purus matched a career-high with 13 strikeouts and redshirt junior Andrew Bullock collected three hits including igniting a two-run frame in the decisive sixth inning as Western Carolina rallied past The Citadel, 4-3, Thursday evening in the Southern Conference series opener at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Trailing by a run, 3-2, after a three-run top of the fourth inning for the Bulldogs, Western Carolina (20-28, 8-14 SoCon) found a crooked number of its own in the home half of the sixth inning. Bullock belted a lead-off double off the fence in left field, but was in jeopardy of being stranded as he remained at the bag as the next two in the lineup were unable to advance the runner. Sophomore Will Prater then singled into left field allowing Bullock to rumble around third to score the tying run.
With Prater running from first base with the pitch, pinch-hitting freshman Colin Bertsch singled through the right side allowing Prater to hit the bag at second and head for third. A slight bobble on the recovery of the baseball in right field delayed the return throw into the infield. Seeing the troubled exchange, Prater rounded third and was sent home, hustling into the plate with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Bullock led the Catamounts with a 3-for-4 showing, adding a pair of singles including a run-scoring base hit deep in the hole at short in the first inning. Freshman Jalen Jones extended his active hitting streak to a career-long tying six-straight games with a second-inning single into center field while Luke Robinson stretched his reached base safely streak to 13-straight with a first-inning single.
Sophomore Justice Bigbie hit for the fourth-straight game with a first-inning single, scoring the game’s first run on the Bullock RBI infield single while classmate Daylan Nanny collected his 29th RBI of the year on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice ground out that give WCU the 2-0 lead in the second inning.
But the story of the day was the performance of Hudson, N.C., native Taylor Purus. The southpaw limited the Bulldogs to three runs while scattering six hits, pitching around a pair of walks with the 13 strikeouts, tying his career-best effort from last season in mid-April at VMI. Purus struck out two-or-more batters in four innings on Thursday including fanning the side in the sixth. In the middle innings, Purus recorded seven of the nine outs over a three-inning span by strikeout.
WCU junior reliever Jacob Corn tossed a scoreless, one-hit ninth, stranding the lead-off runner at second base to earn his fourth save of the season.
Shane Connolly (3-7), who started for The Citadel (10-42, 3-19 SoCon), was saddled with the loss despite limiting WCU to four runs – three earned – on seven hits over a six-inning effort. He countered three walks with a trio of strikeouts before Cameron Reeves tossed two innings of one-hit, scoreless baseball for the Bulldogs.
Centerfielder Wes Lane was the offensive hero for the Bulldogs, driving a bases-loaded double into left field to plate all three runs for the visitors. Lane finished the game 2-for-4 including the ninth-inning single and stolen base off Corn that put the would-be game-tying run at second. The remaining five Bulldog hits were scattered between five different hitters with Ben Peden and Cole Simpson both reaching twice, adding walks to their singles.
Game two of the three-game SoCon series is scheduled for Friday evening at 5 pm. The game is set to be broadcast with live streaming video on the SoCon Digital Network, with both live streaming audio from the Catamount Sports Network and live stats links available online at CatamountSports.com.