Feb. 28, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Junior Jacob Hoyle blasted a two RBI single passed the outstretched glove of his diving counterpart at first base to cap a wild eighth inning on Friday evening as Western Carolina rallied by La Salle, 6-4, in game one of the nonconference series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Capitalizing on a trio of hits and a pair of WCU miscues in the top of the eighth, La Salle erased a three-run deficit with a four-spot in the top of the frame to pull ahead, 4-3. However, in the home portion of the frame, WCU got a bases loaded shot to the right side by Hoyle to reclaim the lead with Taylor Sandefur helping tack on an insurance run with a RBI single through the right side as the Catamounts pulled out the victory - win No. 200 for seventh-year head coach Bobby Moranda.
Seven different Catamounts recorded hits in the winning effort, led by sophomore catcher Danny Bermudez with a 2-for-4, two runs scored showing. Both Hoyle and senior Dykota Spiess collected two RBI apiece, while Spiess had the game's lone extra base hit with a double, his team-leading third of the season.
WCU starter Jeremy Null factored in a no-decision after striking out seven hitters in seven innings of scoreless work. The right-hander from Claremont, N.C., worked around a pair of walks and retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced before turning it over to the bullpen going into the eighth.
Freshman reliever Bryan Sammons was tagged with three runs - only one of which was earned - on three hits without retiring a hitter. Sophomore Colton Davis tossed the final two innings, striking out two in the ninth to score his first collegiate victory one game removed from his first career save.
Western Carolina (5-2) broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning as senior Cody Jones and Bermudez reached with consecutive one-out singles. Spiess then delivered the first big two-RBI hit of the day for the Catamounts, doubling to right field to plate two runs before being thrown out at third trying to stretch it to a triple. WCU lead 2-0 after two complete.
The lead would stay at a pair until the fifth inning when Bermudez collected his second hit of the day on an infield bunt single. A ground out and J.D. Long single later, Bermudez was at third where Aaron Attaway drove him home for the three-run, 3-0, advantage.
The margin would stay at three until La Salle's rally in the top of the eighth inning, sparked by three-consecutive singles by George Smith Jr., Kevin Baron and Justin Korenblatt. A bobbled ball in the outfield on the second single (Baron) allowed La Salle's first run to come home in the form of Smith who had stopped at third base prior to the mishandled ball. With two on and no outs, Explorers' Cameron Johnson looked to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but the relay from the mound to third for the force play sailed into left field and the WCU bullpen allowing two runs to come home to knot the game a three.
La Salle's rally continued as Johnson advanced two bases thanks to a pair of wild pitches, scoring on the latter to put the Explorers ahead, 4-3.
Senior Luke Gragg started WCU's eighth inning rally by drawing a pinch hit walk before Bradley Strong wore an inside pitch to put two on with one out. Senior Adam Martin loaded the bases by drawing a walk ahead of Hoyle who drove a 2-0 pitch from Dominic Sgroi past a diving Joey Ravert at first base to bring home the tying and go-ahead runs in Gragg and Strong. Sandefur then drove a 1-0 pitch through the right side at second base to bring Martin home for the two-run cushion.
Davis then worked a perfect ninth inning for the Catamounts on the mound.
La Salle (1-7) secured six hits with three walks in the game, but stranded six base runners. Baron paced the squad with a 2-for-4 showing at the plate.
Starting pitcher Shawn O'Neill pitched seven solid innings for the Explorers, striking out four without a walk, surrendering three earned runs on six hits. Reliever Freddy Andujar (0-3) took the loss after plunking Strong in the bottom of the eighth to put the game-winning run aboard.
Game two of the series is scheduled on Saturday afternoon with a 2:00 pm first pitch. Fans can follow the game with live GameTracker through CatamountSports.com - there will be no audio or video available until Sunday's series finale.