Feb. 20, 2011
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina capitalized on an error-filled eighth inning, plating six runs to complete a comeback from down 6-0 on Sunday afternoon to earn the season-opening series sweep over the Morehead State Eagles with a 9-6 win at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Trailing by three entering the home half of the eighth, WCU (3-0) took full advantage of five Eagle errors to take a three-run, 9-6, edge to post the victory.
The frame opened with Cameron Dullnig reaching as a pop-up on the left side was dropped by Eagle shortstop Austin Haney for the first error. Austin Schultz drew a one-out walk to put two aboard, moving to second on a throwing error by replacement third-baseman, Casey Branham, that allowed Aaron Attaway to reach and Dullnig to race home. Schultz would later score from third on a failed pick-off attempt on a toss that got away at first base.
Ross Heffley laid down a picture-perfect bunt single ahead of Matt Johns, who reached on a second Branham error that allowed Attaway to touch the dish with the game-tying run, knotting the game at six. A third error at third base allowed Heffley to add the go-ahead marker, 7-6.
Senior catcher Stephen Notaro capped the rally with a two-run double over the right fielders head to provide the final tally. Notaro paced the Catamounts with a 3-for-5 showing at the plate including the two-bagger with four others rapping out one-hit apiece for WCU. Heffley was 1-for-2 with three walks in the win.
Preseason All-Southern Conference reliever Brandon Johnson (1-0) earned the victory after tossing an inning and two thirds of hitless, scoreless relief out of the bullpen. The Morehead City, N.C., native who won nine games a year ago in relief fanned three of the five batters he faced on the day.
Morehead State (0-3) jumped ahead in the top half of the third inning, pounding out seven hits and five runs. The frame opened with three-consecutive doubles with the third driving in the game's first run and a RBI single two batters later effectively chasing Catamount starting pitcher, Preston Hatcher. Making the move to the bullpen, sophomore T.J. Page was greeted by the Eagle batters with three-consecutive singles before ground out and foul out by Travis Redmon - who led-off the rally - ended the inning.
Hatcher surrendered four runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings with a pair of strikeouts while Page finished the third, tagged for one run on three base hits.
Catcher Taylor Davis extended the Eagle lead with a solo home run in the fourth as Morehead State jumped out, 6-0. Davis finished 3-for-5 with two RBI on the homer and on a double in the third inning.
Western Carolina started to claw back in the home half of the fifth as Attaway doubled to the wall in left and was scored on a sacrifice fly by Johns to break-up the shutout. An inning later, the Catamounts loaded the bases as Dullnig reached on a fielder's choice, freshman Adam Martin drew a pinch hit walk and Schultz delivered an infield single. Heffley then drew a walk to plate Dullnig with Martin scampering home on a wild pitch to trim the margin to three, 6-3, setting up the eighth-inning rally.
Reliever Matthew Robertson (0-1) was the tough-luck loser for the Eagles after allowing six unearned runs on just two hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Starter Garrick Whittle held the Catamount bats off-balance through the first five and two thirds innings, scattering five hits with just one earned run of the three he allowed. Whittle worked around five walks with seven strikeouts in the no-decision.
Western Carolina hits the road this Tuesday as it travels to Winston-Salem, N.C., to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in their new off-campus stadium. First pitch is slated for 4:00 pm with coverage on the Catamount Sports Network and CatamountSports.com beginning at 3:45 pm.