Feb. 18, 2012
CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Western Carolina took both games of the 2012 season opening double-header Friday at Hennon Stadium. Steady senior Ross Heffley came up big in both hitting a walk-off single to knock in Cody Jones to win the first game, 9-8. After falling behind 1-0 in the second game, Heffley again had a timely RBI single to knot the game at one before a five-run sixth inning led the Catamounts to a 6-1 victory.
"Two wins are huge to start off the season," said head coach Bobby Moranda. "It's a little weird beginning with a double-header, but it was great. In the first game, we made some mistakes on the bases. We made a few mistakes on the mound with some hit batters and a few walks, but it was first game mistakes. I thought we played a very sound baseball game in the second game."
In game one, the Catamounts got on the board first with two runs in the first inning from a Bradley Strong triple which scored teammate Aaron Attaway. Next batter Ross Heffley brought in Strong with a ground out to the second baseman.
The Catamounts put up six runs through the first four innings. Fordham hung in the game by adding solo runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings before grinding out four runs in the seventh. Junior Jeremy Sluder began the seventh pitching for the Catamounts, quickly fanning his first batter. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases for the Rams. Another walk and a two RBI double by Mike Mauri gave Fordham a four-run seventh. The Rams would add another run in the top of the ninth off of Catamount pitcher Preston Hatcher to set the stage for a Catamount comeback with an 8-6 lead going into the final stanza for WCU.
Western Carolina put its first batter on the base path with Adam Martin starting the inning off by drawing a walk. Martin advanced to second on a wild pitch from Fordham pitcher Jonathan Reich. Freshman Jacob Hoyle then blasted his first career home run to tie the game at eight. The Catamounts were not done as WCU loaded the bases following a Cody Jones single to left-center and an intentional walk to Aaron Attaway. A Bradley Strong single would fill up the bases for senior Ross Heffley. Heffley did what he has done throughout his career as a Catamount, coming through in a big way, by knocking in the game winning run with a line drive just over the pitcher's head to bring in Cody Jones to give WCU its first win of the 2012 season.
Game two was more of a pitchers' dual between Fordham's starter, Joseph Charest, and Western Carolina's redshirt junior Morgan McKinney who made just the second start of his WCU career. Both pitchers pitched three scoreless innings before the Rams jumped on the board first in the fourth. Fordham's Brendan Maghini started the inning with a single. A Mike Mauri double put runners on second and third with two outs. A wild pitch scored Maghini from third to give the Rams a 1-0 lead. McKinney regained his composure getting out of the inning with a strikeout.
WCU found its offense in the bottom of the sixth beginning with a double down the left field line by freshman Bradley Strong. Ross Heffley would again come up with a timely hit by scorching an RBI his double into left-center - third RBI of the day - to even the game at one run apiece. The offensive production was just beginning as the Catamounts picked up four more runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The Catamounts picked up their final run in the seventh off of a Hoyle single which scored classmate Bradley Strong.
McKinney pitched two more scoreless innings after his one-run fourth before turning the game over to senior captain Vance Chavis. Chavis pitched three complete innings without giving up a hit - including three strikeouts to just one walk - to pick up the save and lead the Catamounts to their second victory of the day.
Freshman Jacob Hoyle went 4-for-5 in Game 1 with his game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth. The home run was a nice way to cap his two double and a single performance in Game 1. In the second game, Hoyle was 2-for-4 with another double and a single, totaling his offensive output to a home run, three doubles and two singles with five RBI.
"I thought all of our freshmen played well. Bradley Strong and Jacob Hoyle went out there and really had no fear. They were aggressive. We talk about playing tough and hard and I thought they came out and played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I've always believed that you're only as good as your freshmen. You want your freshmen to come in and make an impact and that changes everything."
The Catamounts wrap up the series with Fordham tomorrow with first pitch at 1 pm - an hour earlier than originally scheduled due to forecasted rain for Saturday evening. Western Carolina will put true freshman hurler Jeremy Null on the mound to counter Fordham's righty Jordan Grangard.