Mason, Ohio – Matthew Koehler led off the bottom of the first inning with a first pitch home run to right field as a part of reaching base five times in a 4-for-4 effort, and RHP Ryan Mitschele matched a career-high with six strikeouts in the starting effort as Western Carolina halted an eight-game winless drought with a 9-6 victory Tuesday night over Eastern Kentucky at Prasco Park.
The Catamounts jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the first two innings before EKU climbed back into the game by outscoring WCU, 6-3, in the middle innings. A two-out manufactured run in the sixth inning that started with a hustle double by Andrew Bullock provided a much-needed insurance marker as the WCU bullpen tossed three scoreless frames down the stretch, allowing just one base runner.
Koehler added three singles and a fifth-inning walk to reach base each time he stepped into the batter’s box on Tuesday, scoring three times two RBI, one coming on his team-leading 13th home run of the season. Daylan Nanny belted his sixth home run of the season on a fourth-inning two-run blast to right center as a part of a 2-for-5, two run effort while Luke Robinson reached base three times with a pair of singles in a 2-for-4 showing, drawing his 15th HBP of the year.
Koehler’s homer followed by a Nanny single which was later plated on an infield groundout by Bullock gave the Catamounts – the designated home team in the neutral field contest – the 2-0 lead through one complete.
WCU was opportunistic in the second with the first four hitters reaching to spearhead a four-run frame. Justin Sparks drew a lead-off walk before Jalen Jones dropped a single into left field. Will Prater pushed a sacrifice bunt up the third base line, reaching as the errant throw skipped away at first allowing Sparks to score and leaving runners at the corners. Koehler then singled home Jones with both Prater and Koehler scoring on miscues on pitches at the plate.
Eastern Kentucky got a two-run homer by Logan Thomason that also plated Daniel Harris IV to trim the deficit to four, 6-2. However, the Catamounts got both runs back in the home half on Nanny’s two-run round-tripper scoring both he and Koehler, who blasted a shot off the first baseman for a one-out single.
The Colonels biggest threat came in the fifth inning as A.J. Lewis circled the bases on a one-out, two-run homer to left field. Harris and Charles Ludwick both reached on a single and a walk, chasing Mitschele. Reliever Jack Snyder saw the bases get loaded on a single up the middle that just reached the outfield grass by Thomason before Michael Brewer drove in the third run on a single into left field. However, Snyder settled, getting catcher Brent Lovell to bounce back to the mound where he threw home for the force play ahead of striking out Will Johnson to strand the bases loaded, ending the threat.
In the sixth, EKU used a lead-off single by Ryland Kerr and a one-out, run-scoring double by A.J. Lewis to pull back to within two, 8-6. However, on the same scoring play, Lewis tried to stretch the two-base hit into a triple but was thrown out at third as Nanny relayed to Will Prater who delivered a strike to Justice Bigbie at third to help stem the tide and prevent a big inning.
WCU capped scoring in the home half of the seventh as Bullock legged out a double into right center before taking third on a balk. Immanuel Wilder reached on an error at second that allowed Bullock to score, providing the final tally.
Mitschele was solid on the mound for four and a third, pitching around a bases loaded jam in the first inning as a part of stranding five runners over the first four frames. The Statesville, N.C., native struck out six against three walks, allowing five runs on seven hits over four and a third. Jack Snyder (2-2) scored the win out of the bullpen, scattering four hits with a run allowed. The remainder of the bullpen each tossed an inning of hitless, scoreless relief as Blake Therrian, Joe Vranesic, and Jacob Corn held EKU at bay for WCU’s first victory since April 27. Vranesic struck out two and Corn one in securing his third save of the season.
EKU starter Logan Teague (2-5) was saddled with the loss, lifted in the second inning after only recording three total outs. Teague was tagged for five runs – only three earned – on three hits with a pair of walks and a strikeout. Julian Jackson was the most efficient reliever, fanning four over 3.1 innings with three runs and six hits allowed.
Nick Howie singled three times in a 3-for-5 effort to lead Eastern Kentucky, while Lewis drove in three with a two-run homer and a run-scoring double in a 2-for-3 performance. Thomason accounted for two runs on his fourth-inning homer, finishing 2-for-4 after adding a single for the Colonels.
Western Carolina (19-28, 7-14 SoCon) returns home for the final three games of the regular season, hosting The Citadel Bulldogs (10-41, 3-18 SoCon) for a Thursday through Saturday series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium in Cullowhee. First pitch the first two days is scheduled for 5 pm with Saturday’s Senior Day set for a 2 pm start.