Macon, Ga. –Western Carolina split a Saturday doubleheader while claiming its three-game Southern Conference series over league-rival, Mercer, at OrthoGeorgia Park. Starter Chase Walter struck out a baker’s dozen and the Catamounts blasted three home runs in the series-clinching 11-7 victory in game one, while Mercer starter Tanner Hall stymied WCU’s offense to salvage a game three victory, 6-2, in the night cap.
WCU sophomore Daylan Nanny finished Saturday’s twin bill 3-for-6 with his team-best 14th double of the season, adding a pair of walks and an HBP for a .667 on-base percentage. Junior Luke Robinson also tallied three hits including a two-run homer in a 3-for-7 showing with a pair of sacrifice hits including a sac bunt and a sac fly and three total RBI.
Matthew Koehler and Will Prater both finished the doubleheader 3-for-9 with Koehler blasting his team-best ninth home run on a three-run shot in game one. Andrew Bullock also homered with a solo shot in the opener on Saturday.
Western Carolina (16-16, 5-7 SoCon) returns home to open a seven-game homestand that includes six conference games beginning next Thursday through Saturday as the Furman Paladins (12-23, 5-7 SoCon) come to Childress Field / Hennon Stadium for a three-game set.
Game One Recap: Western Carolina 11, Mercer 7
Chase Walter struck out a career-high 13 batters over 6.2 innings and Western Carolina homered three times as the Catamounts claimed its Southern Conference series at Mercer with a 11-7 victory in the frontend of Saturday’s doubleheader at OrthoGeorgia Park / Claude Smith Field.
Walter (3-4) was impressive, striking out the side in the second and third innings while recording five-consecutive strikeouts at one point during that stretch. The Peachtree City, Ga., native surrendered six runs – only four of which were earned – on seven hits with four walks.
Freshmen Jalen Jones and Michael Goehrig singled home runs in the top of the second inning to give the Catamounts the early lead, 2-0, but Mercer got a two-run homer by Bill Knight to answer in the home portion of the frame. The Catamounts surged back in front in the top of the third as Matthew Koehler reached on an infield error and the next batter, Justice Bigbie, dropped a RBI double into right field as WCU retook the lead. Andrew Bullock plated a run on a RBI groundout as WCU lead 4-2 through three complete.
Mercer again responded by scoring twice in the home half of the fourth to tie the game at four through four.
WCU’s fifth and sixth innings allowed the Catamounts to pull ahead for good. Daylan Nanny drew a one-out walk before Luke Robinson blasted a two-run homer to right field. Bullock made it back-to-back homers with a solo bomb to right as the Catamounts led 7-4 through five complete. In the sixth. Goehrig and Immanuel Wilder reached ahead of Matthew Koehler who belted a three-run homer to give WCU a 10-4 lead.
Mercer found a solo run in the home half of both the sixth and seventh innings to claw back to within four, 10-6, before Wilder was scored on a Robinson sacrifice fly for the 11th run. The Bears threatened in the ninth with Angelo DiSpigna doubling home Kel Johnson, but Jacob Corn was able to close it down for WCU.
Beau Healy (2-4) took the loss for the Bears, giving up eight runs on eight hits over five innings, striking out seven as he went toe-to-toe with Walter over the first four frames. Three relievers combined to toss the final four innings with five strikeouts, three by Andrew Kane who tossed a one-hit, scoreless ninth.
Game Two Recap: Mercer 6, Western Carolina 2
Mercer used an impressive eight-inning pitching performance by starter Tanner Hall to silence the potent Catamount offense, limiting WCU to a series-low two runs on just seven hits as the Bears salvaged a game three victory, 6-2, over the Catamounts to prevent the three-game series sweep.
Hall struck out eight while holding WCU to one earned run on a walk and six hits including five singles and just one double to improve to 5-3 overall. Relievers Scott Smith and Sawyer Gipson-Long combined to toss the ninth, both with a strikeout with Smith tagged for one run on a hit with a walk.
The Bears used four-consecutive base hits including a double to push across the game’s first run while also loading the bases in the bottom of the second inning. Mercer’s Kel Johnson then drove a full-count pitch into the gap in right center field, scoring three for the 4-0 edge. In the fifth, the Bears tacked on two more runs with a pair of doubles and a sacrifice fly providing Hall all the run support he’d need.
WCU scored a pair of walks between the sixth and seventh innings, but were never able to string hits together. Immanuel Wilder opened the sixth with a lead-off walk with Matthew Koehler pushing him to second base. Justice Bigbie reached on a fielder’s choice that left runners at the corners before Daylan Nanny lifted a single up and over the head of the second baseman into right center field to put the Catamounts on the scoreboard.
In the ninth, Andrew Bullock drew a lead-off walk before Bryson Parks came on as a pinch runner at first base. Two wild pitches moved Parks to third where he was singled home by Will Prater on a drive to deep in the hole at short to provide the final tally.
Johnson finished with a game-best three hits including a pair of doubles while Alex Crotty singled twice including one on a would-be sacrifice bunt attempt for Mercer. Prater tallied WCU’s only multi-hit game in the nightcap, singling twice including once on a bunt.
Catamount starter Joe Vranesic (1-3) was tagged with the loss, scattering nine hits over five innings while striking out five against one walk. Vranesic allowed six runs before giving way to Ty McCulloch who struck out one against a walk in three innings of two-hit, scoreless relief out of the bullpen.