Greenville, S.C. – Western Carolina rapped out 12 base hits, four for extra bases including home runs by Immanuel Wilder and Luke Robinson while Taylor Purus struck out seven out of the bullpen as the eighth-seeded Catamounts advanced with a 7-3 win over No. 9 The Citadel Tuesday morning at Fluor Field in the opening game of the 2019 Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases.

Western Carolina (21-30) moves into the double-elimination portion of the tournament bracket and will face top-seeded Samford on Wednesday at 9:00 am. The game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio available online at CatamountSports.com and live video available through the SoCon Digital Network (www.SoConDN.com). The Citadel sees its season come to a close at 12-43.

Five Catamounts finished with multi-hit games with sophomore Will Prater collecting a team-best three hits in four trips, driving in two as a part of what proved to be a decisive four-run fifth inning. Jalen Jones doubled in a two-hit effort, plating Prater in the second inning to tie the game at one apiece. Wilder (2-for-5) and Robinson (2-for-3) both left the yard with lead-off home runs – Wilder with a shot to left-center in the third inning and Robinson over 400-feet to just right of center field in the seventh inning – in two-hit performances. Robinson has reached base in 16-consecutive games including hits in six-straight.

Justin Sparks rounded out WCU’s multi-hit games with a pair of singles including a RBI base knock in the fifth inning, adding a fourth-inning HBP to reach base three times.

Tyler Corbitt homered to left field on the first pitch he saw in the two-hole for the Bulldogs to stake The Citadel to a 1-0 lead which it carried into the home half of the second. Consecutive two-out doubles by Prater and Jones drove in WCU’s first run to tie the game at one.

The Citadel capitalized on three hit batters, a pair of singles, and a run-scoring walk to plate two in the top of the third inning. But, the Catamounts were able to limit the rally to just the two before responding with Wilder’s lead-off homer in the bottom of the frame to make it 3-2 through three complete.

After a scoreless fourth, the Catamounts struck in the home half of the fifth inning. Wilder, again, jump-started WCU, pushing a bunt single perfectly down the third base line. The second of two Daylan Nanny walks put two aboard where Robinson sacrificed both into scoring position with a bunt. SoCon Player of the Year and WCU RBI-leader Justice Bigbie (1-for-5) then added to his total with a single up the middle into center field plating Wilder to tie the game at three to continue the rally.

Following an intentional walk to Andrew Bullock that loaded the bases, Sparks, who is coming off an all-tournament team appearance a year ago, drove a run-scoring single through the left side to put the Catamounts in front, 4-3. Prater then singled into center field with Bigbie and Bullock both rumbling home for the 6-3 advantage.

Robinson added an insurance marker with his lead-off blast in the seventh inning with Purus and the Catamounts holding the Bulldogs scoreless over the final six combined frames to score the advancing victory.

Entering the game in a bases loaded jam, one-out jam in the third inning, just two of the inherited runners were allowed to reach by Purus (5-4) who tossed 6.2 scoreless relief innings. Like Sparks, an all-tournament team selection at last year’s event for his efforts on the mound, the Hudson, N.C., native threw his hat into the ring for a repeat early in this year’s event by working around five walks and a pair of HBPs to score the victory. LHP Ty McCulloch tossed the first 2.1 innings in the starting role, striking out two while surrendering three runs on just four hits.

All told, The Citadel stranded 13 runners on base while WCU left 10 on the paths on the day.

Jordan Merritt (3-8), who did not pitch against the Catamounts in The Citadel’s 2-to-1 series win in Cullowhee last weekend, suffered the loss after surrendering five runs on six hits over four innings. Merritt struck out five against three walks before giving way to Jordan Flanders, who had frustrated WCU’s batters in a six-inning victorious appearance in game two of the regular season series. Flanders was touched for two runs on four hits with a walk and a strikeout before Cameron Reeves and Ches Goodman combined for the final inning and two-thirds.

In addition to his first-inning homer, Corbitt tacked on sixth-inning single to lead The Citadel with a 2-for-5 effort while Tilo Skole finished 2-for-3 with a pair of walks for the ‘Dogs

With the victory – WCU’s third at Fluor Field this season – the Catamounts face No. 1 Samford at 9:00 am on Wednesday morning as the SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases resumes for its first full day of games.

May 21 (Tuesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 1: #8 Western Carolina 7, #9 The Citadel 3

May 22 (Wednesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 2: Winner Game 1 vs. #1 Samford, 9:00 am
Game 3: #4 Mercer vs. #5 Furman, 12:30 pm
Game 4: #3 UNCG vs. #6 ETSU, 4:00 pm
Game 5: #2 Wofford vs. #7 VMI, 7:30 pm

May 23 (Thursday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 6: Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 3, 9:00 am
Game 7: Loser Game 4 vs. Loser Game 5, 12:30 pm
Game 8: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 4:00 pm
Game 9: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 7:30 pm 

May 24 (Friday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, 3:30 pm
Game 11: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 9, 7:00 pm 

May 25 (Saturday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9, Noon
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 3:30 pm
Game 14: Winner Game 13 vs. Loser Game 12, 7:00 pm

May 26 (Sunday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (ESPN+)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 15: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 14, Noon

^Game 16: Winner Game 15 vs. Loser Game 15, 40 minutes after Game 15 

^ - if necessary

Related