Cullowhee, N.C. - Samford erased Western Carolina's early 4-0 lead with nine-straight runs, tacking on four in the top the ninth inning to even the best-of-three Southern Conference series with a 13-7 victory over the Catamounts on Saturday afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
The loss halts WCU's nine-game SoCon winning streak, handing the Catamounts just their second defeat in league play this spring. It also sets up a series rubber match on Sunday afternoon with first pitch of game three slated for 1 pm, live online on the SoCon Digital Network.
For a second-straight game, the Catamounts were held without an extra base hit, finishing with nine base knocks on Saturday. Through the first two games of the series, the Catamounts have 23 hits -- all singles.
Senior catcher Danny Bermudez continued his solid series, leading a trio of Catamounts with multi-hit games by finishing 2-for-3 with two RBI including one on an eighth-inning HBP. Junior Matt Smith made the move back to right field in place of the injured Bryson Bowman, who suffered a hip injury late in Friday night's series opener. Smith extended his hitting streak to 12-straight with a 2-for-4 performance, driving in a run on his first single of the day.
Senior infielder Reece Strong, who started at third base, finished 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored, while junior Nobu Suzuki plated a pair of runs to match Bermudez with two RBI. Suzuki lifted a sacrifice fly to right in the second inning and drove in a run on an infield single in the eighth. The Tokyo, Japan, product reached base for the 23rd-straight game.
Kramer Ferrell saw his 17-game hit streak come to a close on Saturday, finishing 0-for-4 with a strikeout, though he reached on a walk to extend that streak to 18-consecutive.
Junior LHP Bryan Sammons (5-2) suffered the loss in surrendering eight runs on 11 hits in the starting effort, exiting the game after 6.2 innings in the top of the seventh inning. He countered two walks with four strikeouts for WCU. The Wilmington, N.C., native worked through the first eight batters perfect on Saturday before issuing a walk in the top of the third, holding the Bulldogs hitless until the fourth inning.
Four WCU relievers toed the rubber on Saturday including Chad Mabini, who tallied a fifth strikeout in an inning and a third, with Corey Sikes, Michael Davis and Jake Moebius combining for the final frame.
Western Carolina (18-15, 9-2 SoCon) jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the first two innings, plating a pair of runs in both of the first two frames -- scoring in the first inning for the 20th time in its first 33 games. WCU's first two batters reached on a HBP and walk, respectively, before Bermudez put the Purple & Gold on the board with a sharp RBI single up the middle. Caleb Robinson plated a run on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 after one.
In the second, the Catamounts again put the first two men aboard before Suzuki drove one home on a sac fly with Smith driving in the fourth run of the game on his hit-streak extending single.
Following a scoreless third, Samford pushed across three runs in the top of the fourth inning with four-consecutive singles -- the first off of Sammons on the day. Alex Lee's RBI single through the left side put Samford on the board ahead of a double-play ball that plated a second marker. Shortstop Danny Rodriguez then tripled past a diving Smith in right field to make it 4-3.
The Bulldogs grabbed the lead in the fifth inning as Austin Edens belted his first of two home runs on the day with a three-run shot to left that made it 6-4 in favor of the visitors. Samford then played long ball again in the seventh as Heath Quinn and Edens went back-to-back with two-out homers, leaving the score 8-4 at the stretch.
Trailing 9-4 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, the Catamounts had their best latter-inning threat, getting a two-out infield RBI single by Suzuki and a walk to load the bases. Bermudez was plunked for the second time in the game to plate a run, making it 9-6, but a pop-up to shallow right cut the rally short.
With the game still within three runs, Samford (20-15, 6-5 SoCon) plated four insurance markers in the top of the ninth to break it back open to a seven-run cushion entering the bottom of the frame. WCU would again load the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth before a RBI ground out by Garrett Brown provided the final tally, 13-7.
For a second-consecutive game, Samford's starting pitcher did not record more than an inning of work as Connor Radcliff was taken out after an inning of work. Radcliff gave up four runs on two hits, walking two with a hit batter. His relief, however, was up to the task as Samford's bullpen only allowed three runs on seven hits the final seven innings.
Five Bulldogs posted multi-hit games as lead-off man T.J. Dixon, Quinn and Edens each collected three hits apiece, while Rodriguez and catcher Richard Greene both finished with two hits. Edens homered twice as a part of a four-RBI performance while Rodriguez and Dixon both plated two runners in the win.
Freshman Stephen Jones (3-0) picked up the victory in relief, tossing five scoreless innings and limiting WCU to four singles with a strikeout and no walks. Josh Rich struck out three in an inning and two thirds of two-run, three-hit relief with both Wyatt Burns and Jack Rude tossing two-thirds of a frame to close the game.
Sunday's finale is scheduled for a 1 pm first pitch in Cullowhee.