Shelby, N.C. – Western Carolina used an Immanuel Wilder solo home run and run-scoring doubles by Daylan Nanny and Andrew Bullock to build a four-run lead on Wednesday evening before holding off Gardner-Webb in the bottom of the ninth, earning a 4-3 nonconference victory over the Runnin’ Bulldogs at Keeter Stadium.
Leading 1-0 after a lead-off homer by Wilder in the first inning, neither team managed to find its way home until the top of the eighth inning. A wild pitch on a two-out, swinging third strike to Justice Bigbie allowed the eighth to continue where Nanny legged out his team-leading 12th double of the season, scoring Bigbie for a 2-0 advantage.
The Catamounts tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the ninth as Colin Bertsch reached with his third single of the game and Will Prater drew a walk to put two aboard. Consecutive wild pitches allowed both runners to advance two bases with Bertsch scoring the game’s third run. Pinch hitter Andrew Bullock then doubled to left center field, scoring Prater to hand WCU a 4-0 advantage.
The ninth inning runs proved to be important as Gardner-Webb (15-14) used back-to-back hits including a pinch-hit single followed by a double to put runners at second and third with nobody out. A sacrifice fly by Ben LaSpaluto put the Runnin’ Bulldogs on the board with an infield error allowing a second run to score. With runners at the corners, a balk pushed across a third marker, pulling the home squad to within a run. However, with runners moved back to the corners, Mitch McLendon bounced into a game-ending double-play as Bigbie flipped to Prater at second to Nanny at first to seal the victory.
Bertsch paced the Catamount offense with a career-high tying three base hits, while the remaining seven of WCU’s 10 base knocks were scattered between seven different players. Wilder hit his fourth homer of the season while Nanny and Bullock both doubled in runs – the latter coming as a pinch hitter.
Redshirt senior Matthew Koehler also collected a double in Wednesday’s road victory.
Blake Therrian (2-1) struck out a season-high three in tossing a career-long 7.0 innings in the starting role on Wednesday. The Portage, Mich., native worked around four walks, stranding eight of the 11 Runnin’ Bulldogs runners that were left on base. Jack Snyder struck out one in an inning of one-hit, scoreless relief while Jacob Corn pitched the ninth, allowing three runs – two of which were earned – on four base hits and inducing the game-ending double-play ball.
Gardner-Webb starter Aaron Stewart (2-2) was saddled with the loss despite surrendering just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts as the Runnin’ Bulldogs were never able to pull even on Wednesday. Stewart retired 13-straight at one point between the second and sixth innings. Reliever Noah Davis allowed three runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts and a walk over two frames of work.
LaSpaluto and Corey Howard both collected two hits apiece for Gardner-Webb, while Davis Balentine doubled in a 1-for-4 showing.
Western Carolina (14-15, 3-6 SoCon) travels to Macon, Ga., for a three-game Southern Conference series against the Mercer Bears (15-18, 4-5 SoCon) beginning Friday evening at 6:00 pm at OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field on the SoCon Digital Network. The series continues with a 2:00 pm start on Saturday (ESPN3, cable/satellite subscription required) and a 1:00 pm series finale on Sunday (ESPN+, subscription required).
Each game is slated to also be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio available online at CatamountSports.com. Fans are encouraged to stay up-to-date on any weather-related schedule changes through WCU’s social media channels using the handles @catamounts or @WCUCatamountBSB.