Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina rode a six-run eighth inning to victory on Wednesday night, outlasting the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs for a 16-14 nonconference victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. WCU had seven players post multi-hit games in the victory with redshirt junior Bryson Bowman driving in a game-high five runs on a 3-for-5 performance.
All told, the two teams combined for 15 extra-base hits including seven home runs -- four by Gardner-Webb and three by WCU. The Catamount win halted Gardner-Webb's four-game win streak, handing the Runnin' Bulldogs just their second loss of the season.
Bowman belted two home runs including a three-run shot in the bottom of the first inning to lead the Catamounts. Senior catcher Danny Bermudez also collected three hits -- all singles -- in driving in two. Junior Matt Smith doubled in a 2-for-5 outing, while senior Kramer Ferrell drove home three on a triple as a part of his two-hit day.
Sophomore Brett Pope extended his current hitting streak to a team-long 12-straight games with a fifth inning single. The Statesville, N.C., native added an eighth-inning triple and two walks, scoring twice in the winning effort. Nobu Suzuki and Garrett Brown both doubled as a part of two-hit performances.
On the mound, the Catamounts used seven different pitchers in securing the midweek victory. Second-year reliever Corey Sikes tossed a long of three innings in relief, striking out one against one walk while allowing two runs on three hits. Senior Colton Davis struck out a team-high five in two and a third relief innings of two-hit, scoreless relief.
Junior B.J. Nobles (1-1) picked up the victory for WCU, tossing two-thirds of an inning with a walk and a strikeout. Left-handers Dillon Bray and Tristan Baker combined to record the final three outs. Bray struck out one while Baker fanned two against two walks in earning the save.
Gardner-Webb (17-2) got on the board in the top of the first, plating four runs on five hits. The Catamounts countered by getting three runs back in the home half of the frame on Bowman's three-run homer, trimming the deficit to 4-3 after one.
Single runs in the second on a Tyler Best sacrifice fly and a Justin Kunz solo home run made it 6-3 before the Catamounts responded in the fifth. WCU capitalized on GWU miscues, scoring a run on a wild pitch and taking advantage of a throwing error to close the gap back to one with a pair of runs, 6-5.
Western Carolina (6-10) grabbed its first lead of the day in the sixth inning, scoring four runs to take a three-run, 9-6, lead. The Catamounts scored all four runs after two were out, getting run-scoring doubles from Suzuki and Brown before Bermudez delivered a two-RBI single to cap scoring in the inning.
Bowman belted his second home run of the day in the seventh to stake the home squad to a four-run, 10-6, lead. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs responded with a five-run top of the eighth inning to pull back in front by a run, 11-10. Gardner-Webb opened the frame with back-to-back home runs before a RBI double and an error brought the game-tying and go-ahead runs home, respectively.
Trailing by a run, 11-10, WCU rallied for six in the bottom of the decisive eighth inning. Pope opened the frame with a triple to right center field before scoring on an infield single by Brown to tie the game at 11. The Catamounts loaded the bases before Bowman drove in the go-ahead run on an infield single to plate the second run of the rally. Ferrell then nearly cleared the bases with a triple to the fence in left center, driving in three before eventually scoring on a wild pitch to cap the scoring in the frame, 16-11.
Gardner-Webb didn't go quietly, though, in the ninth inning as Kunz led-off with his third home run of the contest to make it 16-12. Two walks sandwiched around a strikeout by Bray led to a RBI single and a three-run margin, 16-12. With the bases loaded and one out, GWU received a run-scoring walk by Jacob Walker. However, Baker struck out a pair of pinch hitters to end the threat and secure the victory for the Catamounts.
Kunz finished a game-best 4-for-5 with three home runs to lead Gardner-Webb while Patrick Graham and Best both tallied three-hit performances. Reliever Wil Sellers (1-1) suffered the loss after being tagged with six runs on four hits in a third of an inning out of the bullpen.
Western Carolina hits the road for three games at Kansas State this weekend before traveling to nationally-ranked North Carolina next Tuesday for a single mid-week game. Each game from Manhattan, Kansas, can be see online with video streaming through K-StateHD.TV.