Cullowhee, N.C. - Pierce Suttles delivered a pinch hit walk-off single to right center field to score Spencer Holcomb from second base as Western Carolina claimed Sunday's series rubber match over the Samford Bulldogs, 6-5, at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Reaching base for the fourth time on the day, Holcomb was hit by a pitch to open the decisive bottom of the 11th inning. Senior Garrett Brown then sliced a single through the left side past a diving third baseman Hunter Swilling to put runners at first and second with one out in the frame. Called on to pinch hit, Suttles then drove a shot deep to the gap in right center field that just tipped off the glove of centerfielder T.J. Dixon, setting up the frantic throw back into the infield.
Holcomb, who froze at second on the long fly, started to retreat to the bag at second until he saw the ball hit the ground off Dixon's glove. He then rumbled around third base and slid safely into home plate ahead of a relay throw home, sparking a wild infield celebration for WCU, which claimed the series win over the preseason favorite Bulldogs.
The game was WCU's second extra inning affair of the week after going to 10 innings Tuesday night at No. 18 Clemson before falling, 7-6. WCU won its fourth SoCon series so far this year.
Brown led the Catamounts with a 4-for-5 performance at the plate, drawing a pair of intentional walks to reach base six times in the winning effort. Holcomb finished 3-for-3 with a trio of singles, scoring twice including the game-winning run.
Junior Matt Smith stayed hot at the plate, extending his current hitting streak to 13-straight for a second-time this season with a 3-for-4 performance. Smith also walked twice and drove in a pair of runs. Senior Kramer Ferrell finished 2-for-5 to cap the four multi-hit games as WCU pounded out 14 hits including 13 singles.
On the mound, three Catamounts shouldered the load with junior B.J. Nobles (2-1) scoring the victory after tossing four scoreless, three-hit innings. Nobles took over in the eighth, striking out two against one walk. Senior Colton Davis fanned a game-high five in a team-best 4.2 relief innings, allowing a run on three hits with two walks. Davis finished the weekend with 11 strikeouts in two appearances.
Junior Korey Anderson started the game for WCU making his first weekend start this season. The Grayson, Ga., product matched two walks with a pair of strikeouts, allowing four runs -- three earned -- in 2.1 innings before giving way to Davis in the third.
For a season-high tying fifth-straight game, Western Carolina (19-15, 10-2 SoCon) scored in the first inning on Sunday as Smith collected the squad's lone extra base hit of the series on a RBI double to plate the first run. Catcher Danny Bermudez just missed tallying the second for extras on a long fly ball to the wall in left that was hauled in by Jared Watson, but the sacrifice plated the second marker.
Samford (20-16, 6-6 SoCon) responded with a pair of two-run innings in the second and third to take the lead, leading off with back-to-back base hits including a run-scoring double by Watson who eventually scored on an infield ground out. In the third, back-to-back walks came back to haunt WCU as Samford manufactured a pair of runs to take a 4-2 lead.
The Catamounts responded with a three-spot in the home half of the fourth to reclaim the advantage, 5-4. Two singles by Holcomb and Brown sandwiched around a walk to J.D. Long in the ninth batting position loaded the bases. WCU used RBI ground outs by Reece Strong and Bryson Bowman to tie the game with Smith's second RBI base hit -- a run-scoring single to left center -- putting the Catamounts back on top.
WCU's lead stood until the seventh inning when Swilling doubled and scored on a Heath Quinn single to knot the game at 5, setting up the late and extra inning heroics.
After seeing the game tied in the top of the seventh, WCU had a golden opportunity to retake the lead in the home half of the frame as the offense loaded the bases with two outs, but could not find a hit, stranding them loaded. Two innings later, WCU again loaded the bases on a pair of Bulldog infield throwing errors. However, Samford managed to get a strikeout and a fielder's choice force out in the middle of the diamond to end the threat and force extra innings.
In extra innings, WCU's defense used a double-play ball to erase a lead-off single in the top of the 10th to preserve the tie. Then, perhaps the biggest defensive play of the day came in the top of the 11th. Matt Smith made a shoe-top catch on a line drive by T.J. Dixon then tagged the bag at first for another double-play that sent the game to the home portion of the 11th still tied at five.
All told, WCU left a combined 17 runners on base in the thrilling extra inning victory.
Samford reliever Wyatt Burns (1-1) -- the fifth Bulldog pitcher of the afternoon -- took the loss, allowing a run on two hits with a strikeout. Starter Parker Curry, the reigning SoCon pitcher of the Week, scattered 10 Catamount hits over six innings, allowing five earned runs with five walks. Bulldog reliever Josh Rich tallied a team-high two strikeouts.
Offensively, Swilling led the way with a 3-for-5 outing with two doubles for Samford, while Alex Lee went 2-for-4 as the Bulldogs finished with 10 hits on the day.
Western Carolina steps out of conference for a pair of midweek home games before returning to league play next weekend at The Citadel. WCU hosts mountain-rival UNC Asheville on Tuesday evening at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium in Cullowhee before entertaining Virginia Tech out of the ACC on Wednesday. First pitch both nights is set for 5 pm.