Cullowhee, N.C. - Sophomore infielder Brett Pope tripled down the first base line to plate the game-winning run as Western Carolina rallied past Presbyterian, claiming the see-saw nonconference affair, 10-9, on Tuesday at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Trailing by a run entering the home half of the eighth inning, redshirt junior J.D. Long tied the game for a fourth time, driving a sacrifice fly into left field to allow senior Kramer Ferrell to score the tying run, 9-9. Pope, who finished with a team-high three hits, then laced a two-out triple inside the bag at first, scoring pinch hitter Caleb Robinson from second base with what proved to be the game-winner.
Senior Colton Davis (1-0) then worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to score the victory, halting WCU's three-game seasonal slide while making it three-straight home victories. Davis tossed an inning and two-thirds of hitless, scoreless relief, striking out three out of the bullpen.
For the Catamounts, it was their third, one-run game in their last four outings -- but the first that ended with the Purple & Gold on top.
Junior Dillon Bray started for the Catamounts, allowing five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts against a walk in 2.2 innings of work. Reliever Chad Mabini tossed his WCU career-long three innings, scattering four hits while allowing PC to plate three runs with a strikeout and two walks. Sophomore Corey Sikes fanned two in an inning and two thirds of two-hit, one-run relief.
Pope was the only Catamount with multiple hits on Tuesday, finishing 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored. He added one of WCU's seven stolen bases with Bryson Bowman leading the team with two thefts. The Catamounts' other six hits were scattered between six different players. Senior Danny Bermudez drove in a team-high three with a 1-for-3 performance with a double while junior Nobu Suzuki finished 1-for-3 with two RBI while also laying down a sacrifice bunt.
Junior Matt Smith extended his current hitting streak to 11-straight, belting his third home run of the season over the fence in right center field
Western Carolina (4-8) erased an early two-run deficit with a five-run second inning, collecting five hits in grabbing the three-run advantage. Suzuki drove home two on a single up the middle, bringing both Bowman and Kramer Ferrell home to tie the game at two. With Suzuki and Long aboard, Pope delivered his first RBI on a single into center field to give the Catamounts the lead, 3-2. A RBI ground out by Garrett Brown and a run-scoring double by Bermudez capped the five-run frame, leaving WCU ahead, 5-2, after two.
WCU's lead was short-lived, though, as Presbyterian responded with three runs in the top of the third, two scoring on a Cletis Avery double and the third on a Colton Chapman single to knot the game at five apiece.
In the fourth, Presbyterian reclaimed its two-run advantage as Weston Jackson delivered a two-run scoring single up the middle to push the visitors ahead, 7-5. However, the Purple & Gold responded with a two-spot in the fifth as Bermudez drove home Brown on an infield ground out ahead of Smith's rocket round-tripper to right center.
Jackson again pushed the Blue Hose ahead with a RBI single in the sixth only to see the Catamounts tie the game in the seventh as Bermudez delivered a sacrifice fly to bring home Pope to make it 8-8. Presbyterian reclaimed the lead in the top of the eighth as Connor Slagill came up with a pinch hit double before pinch runner Guy Casaceli scored on Weyenberg's RBI double down the right field line, setting up WCU's bottom of the eighth heroics.
Presbyterian (7-4) saw its two-game win streak snapped. The Blue Hose tallied 13 hits on the day including six doubles -- two off the bat of shortstop Cletis Avery. Outfielder Weston Jackson drove in a game-high four runs on a 3-for-5 outing, while Tyler Weyenberg was perfect at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with a double.
Blue Hose reliever Aaron Lesiak (0-1) suffered the loss out of the bullpen, surrendering two runs without allowing a hit, walking two in an inning and a third. He was the second of three relievers used by PC. Starter David Sauer was touched up for seven runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings, striking out four against two walks.
After the one-game stop at home, Western Carolina hits the road again as it travels to Bloomington, Ind., to face the Indiana Hoosiers (3-7) for a three-game nonconference set this weekend. The three games are the first-ever between the two programs on the baseball diamond, while also representing WCU's second-straight season of playing a three-game series against a Big Ten foe.