Feb. 18, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina broke a scoreless tie in the home half of the fifth inning, pushing across five runs on three hits en route to blanking the visiting Winthrop Eagles, 8-0, Tuesday afternoon in the 2014 home opener at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Three Catamounts finished with multi-hit games as junior Bradley Strong posted a 2-for-4 outing with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Senior Luke Gragg finished 2-for-3 with a run scored while classmate Dykota Spiess broke through for his first hits of the season, finishing 2-for-3 with a double and a sacrifice bunt that helped key WCU's fifth inning rally.
Just days after earning his first collegiate save out of the bullpen, Catamount freshman left-hander Bryan Sammons (1-0) scored the victory after tossing three innings of scoreless, one-hit relief on Tuesday. The Wilmington, N.C., native struck out three, facing nine batters in relief of starter Colton Davis who scattered four hits with four K's through the first three frames.
All told, Western Carolina's seven pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts with relievers Bryce Danielson and Jonathan Waszak posting one apiece and Alex Barr punching out two in the ninth inning. Sophomore transfer Taylor Durand and junior Danny Schneider also saw action on the mound in the first home game of the season.
Neither team was able to muster much offense through the first four frames in the 19th all-time meeting on the diamond between the two programs. Winthrop (2-1) threatened in the third by loading the bases with back-to-back singles by Leighton Daniels and Kyle Edwards and a one-out walk. However, Davis rallied to record two consecutive strikeouts to leave the bases loaded and the goose eggs on the scoreboard.
Combined, the two squads stranded just five base runners through four frames.
Momentum started to turn in the fifth inning, though, as Gragg led off with his second hit of the game followed by a single to center by redshirt senior Taylor Sandefur. Spiess then perfectly executed a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position with just one out. Pinch hitter Dale Urquhart Jr., drew a five pitch walk to load the bases with the Catamounts lighting the scoreboard after Bradley Strong wore an inside pitch for an HBP from reliever Michael Gilroy in the first batter he faced.
Ahead 1-0, Jones drove a 2-1 pitch down the right field line for a two-base hit, scoring both Sandefur and Urquhart for a three-run lead. Strong then scampered home on a wild pitch with Aaron Attaway plating a run on a sacrifice fly ball to right field to cap the five-run frame.
In the sixth inning, the Catamounts scratched the board for two more runs to pull ahead by seven. Senior Adam Martin led off with a single to left on the first pitch of the inning before later scoring from second base on a RBI double to right center by Spiess. The next batter, Reece Strong, then sharply singled to right field to drive Spiess home for a 7-0 lead.
Winthrop starter Josh Strong (0-1) took the loss despite limiting the Catamounts to just two runs on three hits through four and a third. Strong countered a walk with a strikeout, finishing with 61 pitches and 36 strikes. Four of the five Eagle relievers surrendered runs as the Catamounts scored the shutout victory - its first since a 3-0 home win over Wofford in game one of a double-header in the regular season championship clinching weekend.
Eagle centerfielder T.J. Olesczuk reached four times in the losing effort, finishing 3-for-3 with a walk to account for half of Winthrop's base hits. Catcher Zac Goodno tallied the Eagles' lone extra base hit with a double, but was gunned out on the play trying to stretch it into a triple.
Western Carolina opens a four-game nonconference road swing across the country on Friday, returning last year's trip to Cullowhee by visiting Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Game one is scheduled for 6:00 pm PT / 9:00 pm ET. All four games of the series are slated to be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with streaming audio available online through CatamountSports.com.