Cullowhee, N.C. – Freshman Colin Bertsch drove the first pitch of his ninth inning at bat into right field to score sophomore Justice Bigbie from second base as Western Carolina picked up a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Wofford Terriers Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Bigbie, who belted a game-tying, two-run home run in the sixth inning, reached in the decisive ninth on a passed ball on a swinging third strike. Down a pair of strikes after missing on his first two sacrifice bunt attempts, junior Luke Robinson successfully gave himself up on the third offering to push Bigbie into scoring position. With two-outs, Bertsch, a product of Plantation, Fla., went with a low pitch into right field and Bigbie, running on contact, rumbled around third to score the game-winning run.
The victory halted a five-game winless drought for the Catamounts against Wofford and pulled WCU (13-14, 3-5 SoCon) even in the best-of-three SoCon series. UPDATE: The rubber match is scheduled for a 3:00 pm first pitch on Sunday afternoon in a game that can be seen on ESPN3.
Wofford (20-13, 3-2 SoCon) took advantage of a pair of Catamount errors in the top of the second inning to grab a 2-0 lead on a two-out, two-RBI single by Mike Brown. The lead held until the sixth inning with the Catamounts found a two-spot of their own.
Bigbie finished the day 1-for-4 to stretch his reached-base safely streak to 19-conscutive, recording two RBI and a pair of runs scored while Bertsch was 1-for-1 with the game-winning tally. Sophomore Daylan Nanny posted WCU’s lone multi-hit game, legging out his team-leading 11th double in a 2-for-4 showing and reaching for the 20th-straight game.
Redshirt senior Matthew Koehler drew a two-out walk ahead of Bigbie who had been retired on strikes in his first two trips to the plate. On a 0-1 pitch, Bigbie drove his team-high tying eighth home run of the season over the wall in right field to knot the game at two through six complete. In the home half of the seventh, pinch hitter Andrew Robinson reached on a fielder’s choice before moving into scoring position on a wild pitch. Sophomore Will Prater then delivered a run-scoring triple to the fence in right center, giving the Catamounts their first lead of the series.
Wofford responded, though, loading the bases with a trio of walks before Andrew Orzel lifted a sacrifice fly into right field to score pinch runner Reed Massey, tying the game at three and setting up the ninth inning heroics for WCU.
One day after the Catamount pitching staff struggled in Friday night’s loss, redshirt sophomore Chase Walter answered the bell in the starting role on Saturday. Walter battled through seven innings, striking out seven while scattering seven hits and limiting Wofford to three runs, only one of which was earned, in factoring in a no-decision. Taylor Purus and Jack Snyder both tossed an inning of hitless, scoreless relief out of the bullpen with Snyder (1-1) collecting his first victory in a Catamount uniform.
Though the trio of WCU pitchers issued a combined 10 walks, they also only allowed seven hits – none after the seventh inning – and stranded 13 Terrier base runners in the winning effort. Wofford left two-or-more runners aboard four times, twice stranding the bases loaded.
Wofford starting pitcher Hayes Heinecke was solid through his 6.1 inning effort, surrendering three earned runs on five hits, striking out six against one walk. Reliever Rasesh Pandya (2-1) was tagged with the loss, giving up an unearned run on two singles with four strikeouts.
Brown led the Terrier offense with a 2-for-2, two walk and two RBI effort while Orzel plated the only other Terrier run with a sacrifice fly in an otherwise 0-for-4 showing at the plate. Freshman Matty Brown drew three walks – one intentional – for Wofford.
The three-game SoCon series wraps-up on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm in Cullowhee.