Bloomington, Ind. - Indiana's Brian Wilhite capped a three-RBI day with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to propel the home standing Hoosiers to a 3-2 victory over visiting Western Carolina on Friday evening in the opener of a three-game nonconference series at Bart Kaufman Field.
Indiana starter Kyle Hart (3-1) tossed a complete game, limiting the Catamounts to just two runs on nine hits in the victory. Hart struck out six with two walks, and was charged with a pair of balks. But it took two runners being thrown out at home plate in the ninth inning before Hart and the Hoosiers could celebrate victory in their home opener.
Trailing by a run entering the final frame, WCU redshirt junior Bryson Bowman legged out his second of two triples when his one-out base hit to right field managed to get past the right fielder and all the way to the fence, putting the game-tying run 90-feet away. A walk to senior Kramer Ferrell gave the Catamounts runners at the corners. WCU attempted to get the run home on a bunt squeeze, but a well-located pitch by Hart resulted in the bunt rolling back to the mound for the routine shovel home for the put-out on Bowman racing in from third.
Then, with two outs and two men aboard, junior transfer Nobu Suzuki laced a single through the right side into right field and Ferrell was waved around third. However, IU right fielder Luke Miller delivered a strike to home plate, gunning down Ferrell at the dish to end the threat and the game.
Three Catamounts finished with multi-hit outings on Friday including Bowman with two triples in a 2-for-4 performance. Ferrell finished 2-for-3, and both he and Bowman accounted for WCU's two runs. Suzuki collected a pair of singles for the Catamounts.
Junior Matt Smith finished 1-for-4 on the day, extending his consecutive game hitting streak to a team-best 12-straight. Sophomores Caleb Robinson and Brett Pope also secured hits for the Purple & Gold.
Sophomore Brendan Nail (0-3) took the loss on the mound for the Catamounts who remained winless away from Cullowhee this season. The sophomore southpaw from Greensboro, N.C., was again strong in the starting role, striking out five against just one walk. Nail scattered six hits and three runs over six and a third before being lifted after Wilhite's homer in the seventh.
Junior RHP Korey Anderson tossed the final 1.2 innings of hitless, scoreless relief. The Grayson, Ga., product struck out two against two walks, one intentional.
After four and a third innings of scoreless deadlock, Indiana (4-7) lit the scoreboard first in the home half of the fifth inning. Consecutive hits including a single by Scotty Bradley and a double by Austin Cangelosi put two runners in scoring position for the Hoosiers. Batting ninth in the order, Wilhite then lifted a sacrifice fly to left field allowing the game's first run to cross home, 1-0.
Nail limited the damage, though, recording a strikeout to end the frame and strand a pair of IU base runners.
In the top of the seventh, the Catamounts rallied to take their first lead of the game. Bowman led-off with a triple to center field, scoring on a RBI single to center by Ferrell to knot the game at one. Robinson successfully sacrificed Ferrell around to second before a ground out moved him to third. Ferrell then came home on the second balk called against Hart, pushing WCU ahead, 2-1.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Indiana responded in the home half of the frame. With one out, Cangelosi was plunked by a pitch ahead of Wilhite who belted a two-run homer over the fence in left to provide what proved to be the final tally. Indiana would go on to load the bases in the seventh, but Anderson left them loaded with an inning-ending strikeout, setting up the ninth-inning theatrics.
Indiana's six hits were spread among six different hitters with Wilhite finishing 1-for-2 with the sacrifice and three RBI. Alex Krupa and Cangelosi both doubled for their lone tally of the night.
Due to unfavorable forecasts for Sunday in Bloomington, WCU and Indiana will play a doubleheader on Saturday (March 12). First pitch of game one is slated for 12:05 pm, while game two will begin roughly 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first contest. There will be no game on Sunday.