Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina pounded out 23 hits including a combined 13 for extra bases with seven home runs as the Catamounts swept both ends of a midweek, nonconference doubleheader over Niagara, winning 17-4 and 10-2 on Wednesday afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Both games were shortened to seven innings prior to first pitch.
Junior Matt Smith led the Catamount offense over the two games with a 6-for-7 performance at the plate including two home runs and a team-high five RBI. Smith reached base nine times in 10 chances, also drawing a pair of walks and was also hit by a pitch. The Fredericktown, Ohio, native was 4-for-5 in game one and 2-for-2 in the night cap, scoring five runs.
Redshirt junior Bryson Bowman drove in four runs in a 3-for-5 doubleheader, finishing just a double shy of the cycle in game one. Bowman also drew three walks and was also plunked by a pitch, reaching base 77.8-percent of the time. Sophomore Brett Pope tallied four hits in the two games (2-for-7) with a pair of doubles and a couple RBI.
In addition to Smith and Bowman's home runs, WCU also got round-trippers from sophomore Caleb Robinson, senior Danny Bermudez, senior Kramer Ferrell and junior Jason Smith, who collected his first hit of the season on a two-run shot in game one. Freshman Andrew Bullock also tallied his first collegiate hit, dropping a pinch-hit single in the left field in the fifth inning.
Niagara (2-8) had three players collect two-or-more hits in the doubleheader. Nick Bernick tallied three singles in game two to lead the Purple Eagles, while Geoff Seto, Greg Cullen and Tanner Kirwer each finished with two hits apiece. Seto and Kirwer recorded two of Niagara's three extra base hits.
All told, WCU (3-5) outhit Niagara .377 (23-of-61) to .269 (14-of-52) in the two-game set, the first-ever meetings on the baseball diamond between the two schools.
Game One Recap -- Western Carolina 17, Niagara 4
After watching its two-run advantage evaporate in the top of the second inning, Western Carolina exploded for seven runs in the home half of the second inning to reclaim a lead it would never relinquish, taking game one over Niagara, 17-4.
WCU belted three, two-run home runs in the decisive seven-run second inning, grabbing a 9-3 advantage through two frames. The Catamounts tacked on six runs in the fifth inning including a three-run home run by Caleb Robinson before Matt Smith capped scoring in the sixth with a fifth round-tripper.
Redshirt junior Dillon Bray (1-1) picked-up the victory in the first game, scattering seven hits through five innings and limiting the Purple Eagles to four runs -- three earned -- with five strikeouts against two walks. Senior Colton Davis struck out two in an inning of one-hit, scoreless relief with Jake Moebius fanning one in an inning out of the bullpen.
Niagara starter Ben Zaccagnino (0-1) took the loss, leaving the game due to an injury after an inning and a third.
Game Two Recap -- Western Carolina 10, Niagara 2
Western Carolina plated 10 runs over the first four innings, completing the doubleheader sweep with a 10-2 victory in Wednesday's night cap.
Senior Danny Bermudez belted a three-run home run in the second inning to stake the Catamounts to a four-run lead through two innings. Brett Pope stretched WCU's lead with a two RBI double in the third, with the Catamounts capping scoring with a four-run fourth including a two-RBI singles by both Nobu Suzuki and Matt Smith.
Freshman Tristan Baker, who made his first collegiate start, scored the victory. Baker, who was on a pitch count in the starting role, was solid through 3.2 innings, both striking out and walking one while only allowing two hits Junior transfer Chad Mabini was the first of four relievers to toe the rubber. Mabini struck out three in an inning and a third of one-hit, scoreless relief.
Sophomores Dylan Biumi and Corey Sikes, as well as senior Jonathan Waszak combined for the final two innings of work. Biumi struck out one while surrendering a run on a hit while Waszak was tagged for the second run with two hits and a walk allowed. Sikes closed out the game in an inning of hitless, scoreless relief.
For Niagara, redshirt freshman James Walker (0-3) took the loss, allowing eight runs -- seven earned on just four hits with six walks against a pair of strikeouts. Walker also plunked four batters in the start. Reliever Austin Miller pitched the final three frames, also giving up four hits while allowing a pair of unearned runs with two strikeouts and two walks.
Western Carolina hits the road this weekend for a three-game series at ACC-foe, Georgia Tech (8-0) and Russ Chandler Stadium. Game one is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 4:00 pm, with Saturday's game slated for a 2:00 pm start. The series concludes on Sunday at 1:00 pm. Each game will be available free of charge online with live GameTracker, with a video feed through RamblinWreck.com (subscription required.)