Cullowhee, N.C. - UL-Monroe scored in bunches on Friday afternoon including hitting both a three-run and grand slam home run to take the series-opener, denying Western Carolina a victory in its first home game of the year with an 11-6 decision at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
WCU (0-4) closed to within both one and two runs on two separate occasions, but a four-run top of the ninth ultimately pushed the game out of reach.
Game two of the nonconference series is scheduled for Saturday afternoon with first pitch slated for 3:00 pm. Fans can follow the game with live GameTracker, available online at CatamountSports.com.
Three Catamounts finished with two-hit games on Friday afternoon. Senior Reece Strong reached three times in a 2-for-3 performance, also drawing an HBP. Senior Kramer Ferrell and junior Matt Smith posted 2-for-5 outings, both driving in runs.
ULM (2-2) jumped out to a 5-0 advantage through the top half of the fourth inning, scoring two runs in the third and getting a three-run homer by third baseman Josh Faciane -- his lone hit of the contest. The Catamounts started the march back in the bottom of the fourth as senior Danny Bermudez led-off with a single and later scored on a RBI single by Ferrell, cutting the deficit to four.
A three-run home half of the fifth inning allowed the Catamounts to claw back to within a run, 5-4. WCU capitalized on two freebies as Strong ignited the rally when he was plunked early in his lead-off at bat. Redshirt junior J.D. Long singled with a wild pitch allowing both runners to advance further into scoring position. Sophomore Brett Pope drove in the run on a ground out to first base before back-to-back singles by Smith and Ferrell drove in two additional runs. Pope finished with two RBI for WCU.
The Warhawks responded with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning to reclaim a three-run edge, 7-4.
The margin remained three until sophomore Spencer Holcomb delivered a pinch hit solo home run to right center field in the eighth to make it a two-run affair, 7-5. However, ULM pushed the game out of reach in the top of the ninth, loading the bases with two outs before Jacob Stockton belted a shot to right center field, chasing centerfielder Garrett Brown to the wall. Brown, a former two-sport standout who played football at WCU, slammed into the fence allowing Stockton to circle the base paths for an inside the park grand slam home run.
Brown bounced back the next half inning to lead off the bottom of the final frame with a triple and was driven home by Pope for his second RBI on another ground out to complete scoring, providing the final tally.
Sophomore starter Brendan Nail (0-2) took the loss for the Catamounts after allowing seven run -- only four of which were earned -- on eight hits. The Greensboro, N.C., native struck out five including fanning the side in the first inning against just one walk.
Senior southpaw Taylor Durand tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief, striking out three while issuing a pair of walks. Junior transfer Chad Mabini tossed the final frame allowing four runs on a pair of walks and two hits.
ULM had seven different players record hits on the day with Cade Stone and Anthony Herrera both finishing 3-for-5. Herrera doubled twice and drove in a three runs, while Stockton (4) and Faciane (3) both had multi-RBI performances.
On the mound, starter Brayden Bouchey (1-0) was as stingy as advertised after coming into the game without allowing a run in his first outing. WCU was able to touch Bouchey for four runs on seven hits, striking out five against a walk. Keegan Curtis, the third of three Warhawk relievers, picked up the save after tossing the final two innings.
First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 3:00 pm.