Cullowhee, N.C. - Leading by one entering the ninth inning, No. 17 Clemson erupted for five runs in the top of the final frame to grab a seemingly comfortable, 10-4, edge over Western Carolina in midweek nonconference action.
However, the Catamounts rallied with four runs in the bottom of the frame, and threatened with the game-tying runs at the plate twice before the Tigers held off the home squad to win, 10-8, in front of 1,409 fans at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Clemson (19-6) capitalized on three walks and a fielding error in plating five unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning before the theatrics in the home half of the frame. WCU's first three batters reached as pinch hitter Pierce Suttles and Nobu Suzuki both drew walks ahead of Garrett Brown who reached on a wild pitch on a swinging strike three. Brett Pope drove in the first marker on a fielder's choice before Bryson Bowman drove home two on a two-RBI double to left center.
Matt Smith singled to put runners at the corners with the fourth run crossing the dish on an error as Smith stole second and the throw skipped into shallow center field. However, with the tying runner at the plate twice, Tiger reliever Alex Bostic -- who was tagged for three runs -- two earned -- in the ninth -- settled down to get a strikeout and a fly out to center to end the threat and the game.
Smith was the lone Catamount to tally multiple hits, finishing 2-for-5 with a run scored. Bowman picked-up the only extra base hit among the eight tallied by WCU, finishing 1-for-3 with the two RBI. Brown stretched his hitting streak to a career-best 11-straight games with a 1-for-4 performance, while Ferrell also finished 1-for-4 and now has a nine-game streak. Caleb Robinson drove in a run, also on a 1-for-4 showing at the plate.
Six different Catamount pitchers toed the rubber on Wednesday with junior LHP Bryan Sammons tossing two perfect innings with three strikeouts in the starting role. Dylan Biumi surrendered two runs on three hits with a pair of strikeouts, while senior Colton Davis was tagged for three runs on three hits with a trio of walks and a strikeout. Davis was the tough-luck loser on the night for WCU.
Junior B.J. Nobles struck out two in two hitless, scoreless relief innings while Taylor Durand struck out two in two-thirds of an inning, surrendering five unearned runs. Chad Mabini collected WCU's 11th strikeout of the game in a third of an inning to close the top of the ninth.
Clemson freshman starter Ryley Gilliam (1-0) scored the victory for the Tigers in his first career start. The left-hander tossed 6.1 innings, scattering six base hits while surrendering four runs -- three earned -- working around three walks with a pair of strikeouts. Reliever Patrick Andrews kept the Catamounts off-balance with four strikeouts and two walks in an inning and two-thirds of one-hit, scoreless relief. Bostic struck out two while allowing two hits.
Western Carolina (11-13) grabbed the early advantage on Wednesday, plating a pair of runs in the home half of the first inning as Brown and Pope both reached on a single and a walk, scoring on a double-play ground out and a RBI single by Ferrell.
Clemson cut the lead in half with a solo run in the top of the third with the Catamounts answering with a marker in the fourth as Smith scored on a run-scoring single by Robinson to reclaim the two-run margin.
The Tigers grabbed their first lead of the game on the strength of a three-run fifth. The visitors took advantage of a HBP and a walk, plating a run on a ground out for the second out of the frame. Consecutive two-out, run-scoring hits including a single by Eli White and a double by catcher Chris Okey pushed Clemson ahead, 4-3, after five, adding an insurance marker in the top of the sixth.
WCU managed to trim the margin back to a run, 5-4, with one run in the seventh inning, but stranded runners at the corners in setting up the ninth-inning.
Okey and Chris Williams both posted two-hit games for Clemson with the latter scoring a game-high four runs in the winning effort. Williams as well as Chase Pinder and K.J. Bryant both drove home two runs offensively, though Pinder's 11-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 performance.
Western Carolina returns to Southern Conference play this weekend, opening a seven-game road swing with a three-game set against the Wofford Terriers in Spartanburg, S.C. First pitch from Russell C. King Field on Friday evening is scheduled for 6:00 pm.