Johnson City, Tenn. – Matthew Koehler led-off the eighth inning with a triple, scoring one batter later as Justice Bigbie collected his third RBI of Friday’s Southern Conference opener as the Catamounts carried a four-run, 9-5 lead into the bottom of the frame. However, the Bucs lit the Thomas Stadium scoreboard for five runs in the home half of the eighth in rallying to hand Western Carolina a gut-wrenching, 10-9, loss.
Junior Luke Robinson led five Catamounts with multi-hit games, finishing just a home run shy of the cycle with a 4-for-5, three RBI performance. The McLeansville, N.C., native doubled home a run in the first inning before singling in the third. He legged out his first career triple to drive in two runs in the sixth inning before again reaching on a single in the eighth.
Bigbie singled twice in a 2-for-3, three RBI outing adding a pair of walks and two runs scored while Koehler doubled and tripled in a 2-for-5, three-run performance. Daylan Nanny and Andrew Bullock both singled twice to round out WCU’s multi-hit games, while Immanuel Wilder belted his first collegiate home run on a solo-shot to straight away center field.
Up 2-0 after the top of the first inning, ETSU (15-5, 1-0 SoCon) responded with a three-run homer in the home half to lead, 3-2, after one. Bullock singled and eventually scored in the top of the second inning to tie the game at three through two where it remained through three complete.
In the fourth inning, one-out singles by Bullock and Andrew Robinson were plated on Bigbie’s bases-loaded smack to right field as the Catamounts pulled ahead, 5-3. WCU added a solo marker on Wilder’s blast in the fifth, capping a three-inning rally with two in the top of the sixth on Robinson’s triple. ETSU got two back in the home half of the sixth to sit 8-5 two-thirds of the way through.
Koehler’s marker in the top of the eighth made it 9-5 before the Buccaneers five-run home half propelled the home squad to the conference-opening victory and WCU (10-9, 0-1 SoCon) its fourth-consecutive seasonal loss.
Reliever Chase Walter (1-4) was the tough-luck loser, entering the game in a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the eighth inning. He was nearly out of the inning after getting the first batter he faced to bounce into a would-be double-play situation. However, the Catamounts, who entered the week second in the nation in double plays turned, committed a costly error and things snowballed from there in the five-run frame.
Sophomore Zach Franklin was again impressive in relief of Jack Snyder, striking out six against two walks in 5.2 innings of work. Franklin limited ETSU to five runs, only four earned, on just four hits. Snyder struck out two in 1.2 innings of work, allowing three runs to score on a first inning homer.
ETSU’s Zachary Kirby (1-1) benefited from the Bucs’ rally to score the win out of the bullpen, allowing three earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts against a walk. Matthew Mercer earned his first save of the year, working around a hit with a strikeout in the ninth. Starter Micah Kaczor was touched for six runs – four earned – on nine hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
The Bucs got a three-run home run by Cade Gilbert in the bottom of the first inning to give ETSU its first lead, 3-2, closing the game 3-for-4 – the only player with a multi-hit game. Ethan Shelton delivered a three-run triple in the eighth that propelled ETSU to the win with Noah Hill driving in two over the final third of the game.
Game two of the three-game SoCon series is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm. Fans can follow the game with live streaming audio from the Catamount Sports Network online at CatamountSports.com, as well as with live stats linked to the same site.