Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina baseball split the first two games of its Southern Conference-opening series against East Tennessee State between Thursday and Friday, setting up Saturday afternoon's series rubber match at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
ETSU (11-11, 1-1 SoCon) claimed the series opener which was resumed and concluded on Friday, 14-8, before the Catamounts (10-12, 1-1 SoCon) rallied from three separate deficits to even the series with a 12-11 victory in game two.
Saturday's series finale is scheduled for a 2:00 pm first pitch. Fans can follow the game with live GameTracker through CatamountSports.com, with a live video stream available through the SoCon Digital Network.
Game One -- ETSU 14, Western Carolina 8
East Tennessee State plated nine runs over the final five frames in a game that was spread over two days, pulling away from Western Carolina to take the series opener, 14-8, in a game that began on Thursday and was concluded Friday afternoon. The game was halted Thursday evening in the bottom of the seventh inning due to rain showers.
Outfielders Bryson Bowman and Kramer Ferrell both finished 3-for-4 in the series opener with the duo combining for all three of WCU's home runs including two by Bowman with Ferrell also doubling. Garrett Brown collected a pair of singles and a stolen base for the Catamounts.
ETSU erased WCU's early 3-0 edge after Bowman blasted the first of his two homers with a three-run shot over the fence in right center field. The Buccaneers rallied with five runs in the top of the second inning to take a lead it would never relinquish.
The Bucs pulled ahead 9-3 in the top of the sixth inning before a two-spot in the home half of the sixth made it 9-5. Ferrell drove in a run on a RBI single before pinch hitter Pierce Suttles plated the second marker on his first hit of the season, a run-scoring double.
Both teams lit the scoreboard with a run in the seventh inning before the Bucs plated four runs in the top of the eighth after the game resumed in the top of the eighth to lead, 14-6. ETSU took advantage of five walks in the four-run frame.
Bowman and Ferrell hit back-to-back solo home runs in the WCU half of the eighth to provide the final tally.
Catamount starter Brendan Nail (0-4) took the loss, exiting the game after five innings. The Greensboro, N.C., native surrendered seven runs on eight hits, countering four walks with four strikeouts. Relievers Corey Sikes and Dylan Biumi both threw on Thursday evening prior to the rain moving in with Biumi striking out two. Senior Taylor Durand took the mound when the game resumed on Friday, fanning one while walking four in two-thirds of an inning before giving way to Jake Moebius who walked two with a strikeout.
ETSU starter Blake Smith (2-3) picked up the victory, striking out four against a walk in 5.2 innings of work. Reliever Ryan Simpler, who entered the game prior to the rain delay, secured the save after tossing three and a third out of the bullpen, striking out two.
Game Two -- Western Carolina 12, ETSU 11
Western Carolina plated two runs in home half of the eighth inning, tying the game on a RBI double by Garrett Brown before he eventually scored the game-winning marker on an infield error as the Catamounts rallied for a 12-11 victory to even the three-game series on Friday.
In a game that was dominated by offense and featured a combined 23 runs on 24 hits with 12 going for extra bases with a combined six home runs, it was pitching that ultimately told the story in the latter innings. Catamount senior Colton Davis (3-0) scored the victory after tossing four innings of hitless, scoreless relief out of the bullpen. The Commerce, Ga., native only allowed three Buccaneer base runners on a trio of walks, working around the free passes with six strikeouts to silence the hot ETSU bats.
On the other side, ETSU reliever Griffin Krieg (0-1) -- who was saddled with the loss -- managed to limit a WCU fifth-inning rally to just three runs prior to taking the mound before hanging two zeroes on the board in the sixth and seventh. The Catamounts were finally able to get to the right-hander with a lead-off walk to Caleb Robinson and a RBI double surrendered to Brown that chased him with the inherited runner later scoring the winning run.
Four Catamounts finished with multi-hit games in the second game with six extra base hits including four home runs. Brown lead the way with a 3-for-5, three-run outing, legging out a double in the latter innings. The Asheville, N.C., native also added two stolen bases. Sophomore Caleb Robinson belted two solo home runs for his 2-for-3, two RBI evening, while senior Kramer Ferrell finished 2-for-4 with a three-run homer.
ETSU took leads in the top of the first (2-0), second (3-2) and fourth (8-5), before stretching its margin to 11-7 in the top of the fifth inning on Friday. Ferrell pulled the Catamounts to within a run on a three-run home run in the home portion of the fifth, setting up WCU's eighth-inning heroics.
ETSU right fielder Lance Mays was among five Bucs with multi-hit games, driving in a game-high five runs on a 2-for-4 outing with a double and a triple that was nearly an inside the park home run before being thrown out at home. Second baseman Trey York plated three on a 2-for-5 performance with Hagen Owenby driving in two with a 2-for-4 showing including a home run. Jeremy Taylor plated one run with a pair of singles, finishing 2-for-4.
WCU junior LHP Bryan Sammons factored in a no-decision in the start, striking out three against three walks in five innings of work before giving way to Davis. ETSU starter Lee Haeberle also fanned three with one walk in four innings in the starting role before Krieg took over in the fifth inning.
The series finale is slated for 2:00 pm on Saturday afternoon in Cullowhee.