Manhattan, Kansas - Junior Matt Smith sparked a five-run sixth inning for Western Carolina with a lead-off home run as the Catamounts scored a series-clinching, 6-2, victory over Kansas State on Saturday afternoon at the Tointon Family Stadium. WCU's third-consecutive win also secured its first victory in a three-game series this spring with the series finale slated for Sunday afternoon.
WCU (8-10) jumped out to a 6-0 lead through the game's first seven innings before holding off a K-State rally which saw the Wildcats plate two in the bottom of the eighth, and ended with the potential game-tying run in the on-deck circle. It was the second-straight day that pitching and defense dominated the early frames before the bats came to life.
Catamount left-hander Bryan Sammons (3-1) was again strong in the starting role, keeping the K-State hitters off-balance through seven scoreless innings of work. The Wilmington, N.C., native limited the Wildcats to just two base hits -- both singles -- after retiring the first nine hitters in a row to start the game. The southpaw worked around three walks with seven strikeouts, pitching out of one bases loaded jam in the fifth inning to score the win.
Sophomore Corey Sikes surrendered both K-State runs coming with two out in the eighth, striking out one. Junior B.J. Nobles secured his second save of the season, ending the eighth as a part of an inning and a third, striking out three in hitless, scoreless relief to close out the victory.
Offensively, Smith finished with a game-high three hits in a 3-for-5 outing recording his third-straight, multi-hit game to lead the Catamounts. He hit his team-high tying fourth home run of the season. Smith was joined by redshirt junior Bryson Bowman and senior Kramer Ferrell, both with two-hit games. Bowman finished 2-for-3
Senior Garrett Brown (1-for-5) and redshirt junior J.D. Long (1-for-4) drove in two runs apiece in the winning effort. Sophomore Brett Pope saw his 13-game hitting streak snapped, finishing 0-for-2 but was hit by a pitch that forced him to the sidelines in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Despite both squads managing to load the bases once through the first five innings -- WCU putting runners at all three bags in the top of the second inning and K-State loading them in the bottom of the fifth -- the game remained marred in a scoreless tie through five complete. Then, on the second pitch of the sixth inning, Smith blasted a lead-off homer over the fence in right to give the Catamounts a 1-0 advantage and ignite the decisive five-run rally.
Following the Smith round-tripper, the Catamounts managed to load the bases with one out before Long delivered a two-RBI single through the right side to stretch the advantage to three, 3-0. Brown later match Long's two-run base knock with a two-RBI single into centerfield to stake the visitors to a 5-0 lead.
Kansas State (11-8) got on the board in the eighth with a two-out rally. The Wildcats used consecutive extra base hits including a double by Clayton Dalrymple and run-scoring triple by Jake Wodtke before the second run came home on an infield hit by Tyler Wolfe. The home squad eventually put runners at second and third before Nobles struck out Jake Scudder looking to end the threat.
In the ninth, K-State again put two men aboard before Nobles got a game-ending fly out to centerfield.
Dalrymple collected two of the home squad's six hits with Wodtke and Wolfe driving in the two Wildcat runs.
K-State starter Parker Rigler (2-3) took the loss, allowing three earned runs on five hits, countering three walks with six strikeouts. Reliever Brogan Heinen allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits in an inning and two-thirds out of the bullpen.
The series finale is scheduled for Sunday afternoon with a 2:05 pm ET / 1:05 pm CT first pitch.