Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina baseball jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings on Wednesday night in nonconference action against mountain-rival, UNC Asheville. However, down by four, 6-2, the Bulldogs used an eight-run fourth inning to grab a lead they would never relinquish in handing the Catamounts an 11-8 defeat at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Four Catamounts posted two-hit games in the loss with sophomore Justice Bigbie reaching base four times in a 2-for-3 effort with a double and a pair of walks, driving in two. Classmate Daylan Nanny legged out his team-best 15th double of the season in a 2-for-4 showing with a walk and two runs scored. Redshirt junior Andrew Bullock finished 2-for-5 with a first-inning, two-run double with Justin Sparks collecting a pair of singles in a 2-for-5 effort, earning the starting nod behind the plate.
Redshirt senior Matthew Koehler extended his active hitting streak to 10-straight games with a two-RBI double in the three-run second inning. Sophomores Will Prater (12-games) and Immanuel Wilder (10) both extended their reached base safely streaks to double-digits as Prater drew a pair of walks while Wilder reached twice on a HBP and an eighth-inning double.
Bullock’s two-run double in the first inning and RBI hit by Koehler and Bigbie in the second staked the Catamounts to a 5-0 lead through two complete innings. However, the Bulldogs got two runs back in the third as Chris Troost and Kole Harris reached on consecutive hits before a RBI single by Greg Gasparro and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jake Madole trimmed the margin to three, 5-2.
A lead-off walk to Nanny eventually scored an unearned run on an infield error to push the Catamount margin back to four, 6-2, but left the bases loaded before the big inning occurred for the Bulldogs. UNCA sent 13 batters to the plate with six recording hits two by Danny Wilson including a three-run home run. When the dust had settled, WCU found itself down by four, 10-6.
A two-out Nanny double to left field was plated on a RBI single by Luke Robinson in the fourth to trim the margin back to three, 10-7, where it remained until the eighth inning. Consecutive two-out doubles by Wilder and Bigbie pulled the Catamounts back to within a pair, 10-8, but the Bulldogs managed an insurance marker on a third extra-base hit by Troost – a triple down the right field line – that provided the final tally.
Reliever Ryan Mitschele (0-2) was saddled with the loss, surrendering four unearned runs on a pair of hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning of work on Wednesday, the first arm out of the WCU bullpen in relief of Blake Therrian who earned the start. Therrian struck out one in three and a third innings, allowing five runs, four earned. Joe Vranesic, who had the hot-hand against UNCA in the first meeting, struck out four against a walk in 4.2 innings allowing two runs, one earned, while Jacob Corn struck out two for his two-thirds of work in the ninth.
Junior Blake Brown (3-2) scored the victory in relief of starter Jacob Edwards who was chased after five runs in the first two innings. Brown tossed an inning and two thirds allowing two runs – one earned – with two strikeouts against three walks. Reliever J.P. Perez settled the game over four solid relief innings before Eric Whitecavage and Kole Harris (7) combined for the final four outs, the ninth-inning save going to Harris who started the game in right field.
Wilson finished a triple shy of the cycle in a 3-for-4, three RBI performance while all three of Troost’s hits went for extra bases including two doubles and a triple. Madole and P.J. Heintz also doubled for the Bulldogs, which earned the home-and-home series split with the win.
Western Carolina (17-19, 6-9 SoCon) wraps-up a seven-game home stand by hosting the VMI Keydets (10-31, 5-10 SoCon) in Southern Conference play at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium this weekend beginning on Friday at 5:00 pm. The series continues on Saturday at 2:00 pm and wraps-up Sunday at 1:00 pm. Each game of the series is slated to be broadcast on ESPN3.