Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina baseball split a Saturday doubleheader with Furman in Southern Conference action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The Paladins rallied from a three-run deficit to claim the front-end of the twin bill that included a two-plus hour rain delay, 4-3, before Catamount RHP Chase Walter dominated the night cap with a career-high 17 strikeouts in a 5-1 WCU victory.
Two Catamount hitters finished the doubleheader with three hits as redshirt junior Andrew Bullock, who started game one as the designated hitter, went 3-for-5 overall including a 2-for-4 showing with a double in the first game. Sophomore Will Prater finished 3-for-7 with a trio of singles while his classmate Justice Bigbie homered twice with a pair of solo shots, scoring a team-high three runs over the two games.
Redshirt senior Matthew Koehler finished 2-for-6 with a two RBI triple, reaching base five times adding a pair of walks and a HBP on Saturday to finish among WCU’s leaders while Immanuel Wilder likewise plated two on a double with two hits between the two games.
Western Carolina (17-18, 6-9 SoCon) continues its current seven-game home stand by hosting mountain-rival UNC Asheville (13-25) – which plays Wofford at home on Tuesday – Wednesday, April 24 at 6:00 pm at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN+ (subscription required).
Game One Recap – Furman 4, Western Carolina 3:
Furman scored four unanswered runs over the final two frames including a three-spot in the top of the ninth inning to rally past Western Carolina, 4-3, in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader – though it wasn’t until a two-out fly ball was picked off the top of the fence with the final out that the Paladins could celebrate both the game and series victory.
With Matthew Koehler aboard after a lead-off infield error, redshirt sophomore Kitt Capell was called upon for a two-out pinch hit. The Prosperity, S.C., native nearly turned series hero as he drove a 1-0 pitch to deep right field chasing Furman’s Sterling Turmon to the fence where the Paladin right fielder made the catch along the top of the wall on the would-be game-winning, walk-off home run bid.
Furman’s comeback ruined a strong pitching effort by redshirt senior Taylor Purus (3-3) who tallied a season-high 10 strikeouts over eight and a third innings. Purus surrendered four runs – only three of which were earned – while scattering six hits and a pair of walks. Jacob Corn struck out one against a pair of base hits in tossing the final two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief.
The Catamounts grabbed a two-run lead in the bottom of the third inning as Immanuel Wilder doubled to right to plate Daylan Nanny and Justice Bigbie who both walked. WCU stretched the advantage to three in the fifth with a one-out solo homer by Bigbie.
Furman cashed-in a lead-off double by Banks Griffith in the eighth inning with a wild pitch and a run-scoring ground out putting the Paladins on the board. Then in the ninth, the visitors took advantage of a single and a two-base fielding error to put the tying runs in scoring position. A foul ball out into foul ground by Logan Taplett allowed the first marker to cross with a run-scoring single by Jared Mihalik knotting the game at three.
Mihalik eventually represented the game-winning run, scoring on an infield bunt single by Griffith, who finished 3-for-4 with a RBI to lead the Paladins. Trent Alley also collected a pair of singles in a 2-for-4 showing.
WCU stranded 10 base runners in the loss, thrice leaving two-or-more on the paths including leaving the bases loaded in the seventh inning after putting three runners aboard with nobody out.
Paladin reliever Jordan Beatson (4-1) picked up the win in relief, recording five of his six outs over a two-inning effort on strikeouts. David Dunlavey surrendered the three runs to WCU in a six-inning start, striking out six with a pair of walks.
Game Two Recap – Western Carolina 5, Furman 1:
Chase Walter struck out a career-high 17 batters in tossing his second career complete game as Western Carolina salvaged a game three win, 5-1, over Furman in the night cap of Saturday’s doubleheader.
For a second-straight season, Walter (4-4) pitched all nine innings in a winning effort against Furman, striking out eight with just four hits allowed against the Paladins in Greenville, S.C., last spring. His 17 K effort marked a second-straight week the Peachtree City, Ga., native recorded double-digit strikeouts after fanning his previous career-high of 13 last Saturday at Mercer. Walter scattered six hits including five singles with a walk in limiting the Paladins to one run over the nine-inning start.
The victory for WCU halted a seven-game drought against their chromatic rival, Furman, at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
For a second-time on Saturday, WCU jumped out to an early, 3-0, lead in the night cap. Matthew Koehler drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the first inning before promptly stealing second base. A single by Daylan Nanny put runners at the corners. A snap throw to third by catcher Dax Roper opened the window for Koehler who stole home for the game’s first run.
Koehler again factored into run production in the second inning as both Will Prater and Colin Bertsch found their way aboard with a bloop single to left and a high-chop infield single in front of the bag at second, respectively. Koehler then legged out his SoCon-leading fifth triple of the season, pushing both runners around the bases for the 3-0 advantage through two.
Furman got one of the runs back in the third as Bret Huebner doubled down the right field line before a wild pitch and a RBI single by Banks Griffith put the Paladins on the board, 3-1.
The Catamounts managed a pair of insurance markers in the seventh and eighth as Bertsch was plunked before scoring on a RBI double by Michael Goehrig in the seventh. Bigbie then led-off the eighth with his second solo home run of the day on a blast to right center field to provide the final tally.
Walter closed the game by retiring eight-straight including striking out the side in the top of the ninth inning.
Furman’s Matt Lazzaro (1-5) took the loss, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and one walk. The Paladin starter nearly matched Walter strikeout-for-strikeout, finishing with nine Ks over 6.1 innings of work. Nik Verbeke pitched the final 1.2 innings, giving up a run on two hits with a walk. Jared Mihalik tallied two of Furman’s six hits in a 2-for-3 outing while Bret Huebner doubled for the only extra base hit for the Paladins.