Macon, Ga. – Southpaw Taylor Purus struck out seven over an eight-inning start and reliever Jacob Corn retired the side in order to put the finishing touches on Friday night’s Southern Conference series-opening victory as Western Carolina made a three-run third inning stand-up in a 4-3 win over Mercer at OrthoGeorgia Park / Claude Smith Field.
After falling behind 1-0 in the home half of the first inning, the Catamounts (15-15, 4-6 SoCon) scored four runs over the next two frames including three in the decisive third to grab a lead they would never relinquish. Mercer used a solo home run and a run-scoring double in the seventh to claw back to within a run but no further.
With the heightened threat of inclement weather including heavy rain and thunderstorms on Sunday, officials at Mercer have moved the scheduled series finale into the backend of a Saturday afternoon doubleheader. Game two will begin at its originally-scheduled 2 pm time slot with the third and final game to follow.
Five Catamount hitters posted two-hit games on Friday with Luke Robinson legging out his second triple of the year and Daylan Nanny collecting his team-best 13th double, both in 2-for-4, RBI performances. Nanny scored two of WCU’s four runs. Andrew Bullock finished 2-for-3, reaching a third time on an HBP, while Will Prater singled twice including beating out an infield bunt with Matthew Koehler posting a 2-for-5 showing.
Nanny’s lead-off double in the top of the second inning led to WCU’s first marker as freshman Colin Bertsch pushed a run-scoring single through the left side at short to allow Nanny to scamper home, tying the game at one through two complete.
In the top of the third, the Catamounts capitalized on an infield throwing error as Immanuel Wilder reached and ended up on second after an errant throw skipped into the visitor’s dugout. Mercer retired the next two in order before three-consecutive, two-out base hits plated the trio of runs. Wilder scored on the RBI single by Nanny through the right side with Robinson bouncing a RBI triple off the wall in right, just missing driving one out of the ball park. Robinson scored on Bullock’s RBI single to center to make it 4-1 through three complete.
Purus stranded runners at the corners in the fourth inning before a 1-2-3 fifth inning and worked around a two-out walk in the sixth. Mercer (15-19, 4-6 SoCon) used a one-out solo home run and a subsequent walk that scored on a one-out double by Bill Knight to left center to pull to within one, 4-3. A wild pitch allowed Knight to reach third before Purus struck out lead-off batter Kyle Dockus and retired R.J. Yeager on a groundout back to the mound, exiting the field with a fist pump and the lead.
Mercer again threatened in the eighth with a one-out walk followed by an infield single that Nanny snared at first base preventing the runner to advance to third. Purus then got a pop-up and a fly ball out to send the game to the ninth where Corn did the rest.
All told, Purus (3-2) tossed a season-long eight innings, limiting Mercer to three runs while scattering seven base hits and working around four walks to score his third win of the season. The Hudson, N.C., native managed to strand seven Bear base runners in the winning effort, twice leaving a runner a mere 90-feet away at third base. Corn induced a fly-ball and a pair of ground outs including the game’s final out on a dribbler up the first base line to score his second save of the year, halting Mercer’s four-game series win streak.
Kevin Coulter (3-2) took the loss for the Bears, surrendering all four runs with just one going as earned on 11 hits over seven innings. Will Bowdoin and Sawyer Gipson-Long combined to toss the final two frames of scoreless relief, working around a hit apiece with Gipson-Long striking out two.
Dockus and Angelo DiSpigna both finished 2-for-4 for the Bears with Kel Johnson doubling in a run in the first inning of a 1-for-4 showing. Zach Miller hit the solo homer to jumpstart the two-run seventh for Mercer, also finishing 1-for-4.
Saturday’s doubleheader will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio available online at CatamountSports.com. Game one of the twin bill is slated to be broadcast on ESPN3 (cable/satellite subscription required) while the finale was originally slated for an ESPN+ broadcast (subscription required).