Lexington, Va. - Redshirt junior Bryson Bowman homered twice and drove in three runs as Western Carolina hit a combined five home runs including four solo shots to claim its Southern Conference series opener against VMI, 7-1, Friday night at Gray-Minor Stadium.
Six of WCU's eight hits in the game went for extra bases as Bowman circled the bags twice and classmate J.D. Long collected a home run and a double in the winning effort. Bowman leads the Catamounts with 10 home runs and 34 RBI on the season. Junior Matt Smith also tallied a pair of hits including his seventh homer of the season.
WCU utilized four pitchers on Friday night, pitching around a combined 12 walks with 11 strikeouts and managing to strand an eye-popping 18 Keydet runners on base. The Catamounts walked the tight rope with the bases loaded four times allowing just one run to score on an infield ground out.
Sophomore reliever Dylan Biumi (1-0) scored the win out of the bullpen in relief of second-year starter Brendan Nail, who was lifted in the fifth inning. Biumi struck out one against two walks of one-hit relief over an inning and a third after Nail struck out three with seven walks in 4.2 innings on the mound. Senior Colton Davis struck out a team-high four with a pair of walks in two innings of one-hit action with sophomore Corey Sikes striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth with two hits and a walk.
Western Carolina (15-13, 6-1 SoCon) grabbed an early lead on Friday, plating two runs in both the second and third innings with three scoring on solo home runs. Smith and Ferrell belted home runs in the second to give the Catamounts a 2-0 advantage after two. Ferrell extended his current hitting streak to 13-straight with the homer.
In the third inning, Brown reached on a fielding error and promptly collected his SoCon-leading 20th stolen base of the season, ending up a third after a second Keydet error. He eventually crossed the dish on a sacrifice fly by Nobu Suzuki for the 3-0 lead. Bowman then delivered WCU's third long-ball of the game on a solo shot that cleared the centerfield fence.
Brown finished 0-for-5 officially, reaching on the error to halt his career-long hitting streak at 14-consecutive games.
VMI (16-18, 1-6 SoCon) got what proved to be its lone run in the home half of the third inning as second baseman Nathan Eaton reached on a lead-off single. A stolen base and infield error put runners at the corners before Pita drew a bases-loading walk with one out. Jacob Jaye then grounded out to the right side of the infield allowing Eaton to score the unearned marker, making it 4-1. Nail then got Peyton Maddox to tap-out to first to end the threat.
WCU stretched its lead back to four runs in the top of the seventh inning as J.D. Long delivered his second home run in as many weekends with a one-out shot that cleared the left field wall for the 5-1 edge. Two batters later with Suzuki aboard, Bowman blasted his second long ball of the game -- and the fifth round-tripper for the Catamounts in the game -- as he again cleared the centerfield fence with a drive to give WCU a 7-1 edge at stretch-time.
In the ninth inning, Sikes fanned the first two Keydet batters before back-to-back singles and a walk loaded the bases for a fourth time in the game for VMI. However, the Monroe, N.C., native struck out Will Malbon to strand all three runners and end the game.
Keydet starter Matthew Eagle (5-3) took the loss for VMI, surrendering four runs -- three of which were earned -- on four hits including three solo home runs. He walked one with two strikeouts before leaving in the fifth inning after 4.1 innings of work.
Third baseman David Geary posted VMI's lone multi-hit game as the five Keydet hits were spread between four players. Geary singled and doubled in the loss.
Due to the frigid temperatures forecasted for Saturday in northern Virginia, officials at VMI have postponed Saturday's game two. The two teams will now play a doubleheader on Sunday (April 10) with first pitch of game one beginning at Noon with the second game to follow. Game one will be broadcast on ESPN3 with the series finale slated to be broadcast online on the SoCon Digital Network.
Be sure to keep track of Catamount baseball including any weather-related schedule changes online at CatamountSports.com or through WCU Athletics' social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts).