Charleston, S.C. - Bulldog catcher Stephen Windham drove the first pitch he saw through the middle of the Catamount infield to bring home the second marker in a two-run rally as The Citadel plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and then made it stick in a 2-1 Southern Conference series-opening victory over first-place Western Carolina Friday afternoon at Riley Park.
WCU (20-17, 10-3 SoCon) held a slim, 1-0, lead through five and a third innings, scoring in the first frame for the 23rd time through 37 games this spring. However, the Catamounts could not capitalize on early opportunities to expand the advantage, allowing the Bulldogs to claw back into the game in the sixth before scoring the upset win, halting a six-game slide.
Four Catamounts collected hits in the game with Garrett Brown leading off with a hustle double down the third base line, while Bryson Bowman and Caleb Robinson both secured doubles for three of WCU's four hits. Brown reached based a combined three times with a walk and a HBP, recording his 25th stolen base of the season, while Bowman was also on the base paths three times, drawing a pair of walks in his first two trips.
It was Bowman's two-out stolen base in the first inning that allowed Brown to scamper home on the throw to second that put WCU on the board, 1-0, after one inning.
Nobu Suzuki (1-for-2) tallied a pair of sacrifice bunts early in Friday's game before reaching base for the 27th-consecutive game with a single through the right-hand side in the eighth inning. Two other lengthy streaks ended in the loss as Matt Smith (0-for-4) was held hitless for the first-time in 15 games and Kramer Ferrell was held off base, halting his 21-game reached base safely streak. Ferrell was robbed on a line drive in the fourth inning by Barrett Charpia on his best opportunity to extend the streak.
WCU bounced into a pair of inning-ending double-plays on Friday, helping thwart the team's offensive efforts. The Catamounts stranded seven runners in the loss including one in each of the first four frames.
Catamount starter Brendan Nail (2-5) was the tough-luck loser, surrendering two runs in 5.1 innings on the mound with the second marker scoring after he left the hill. Nail scattered four hits while striking out four against two walks. Senior Colton Davis was again strong in relief, shutting the Bulldogs down the remaining 2.2 innings with five strikeouts out of the bullpen while only allowing two hits in scoreless relief.
Davis has struck out four-or-more batters in each of his last six relief appearances including five-or-more in his last four trips to the mound. The Commerce, Ga., native has a team-high 59 strikeouts through 39.1 innings.
Sophomore J.P. Sears (5-3) scored the victory, scattering three hits -- all doubles -- through six innings on the mound for the home squad, allowing just the first-inning run. The second-year left-hander worked around four walks with five strikeouts. Kyle Smith threw two, one-hit innings in relief before Zach Lavery scored his sixth save of the year, pitching a perfect ninth with a strikeout.
Designated hitter Mike Deese collected two of The Citadel's six hits in the win, driving the game-tying run home on a double to right field. Windham's lone hit proved to plate the game-winner, finishing 1-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and a sacrifice bunt to his credit. Two-sport athlete, Shy Phillips, collected a base hit and scored the game-tying run on Deese's double.
Game two of the three-game Southern Conference series is scheduled for 2 pm on Saturday afternoon at Riley Park.