March 2, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Junior Bradley Strong and senior Aaron Attaway both hit for the cycle as Western Carolina slugged its way past La Salle, 20-10, on Sunday afternoon in nonconference baseball action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The Catamounts scored in all but one inning in which they took swings, tallying multiple runs in four of the seven frames.
All told, Western Carolina out hit La Salle, 21-to-13, with a dozen of the Catamounts' 21 base hits going for extra bases including six doubles, two triples and four home runs.
Strong collected a career-high five base hits in six at bats, scoring a career-best five runs while also driving in five on his banner day. The Richlands, Va., product singled in the second, tripled in the third, and picked up the double in the fifth before homering in the sixth to earn the cycle - the first of his collegiate career.
Not to be out done, Strong's middle infield counterpart, Attaway, tallied his second career cycle during Sunday's victory, finishing 4-for-5 with a matching five RBI. The Morganton, N.C., native tripled in the third inning, singled in the fourth, and homered in the fifth before cruising into second for the double in the seventh inning.
Attaway hit for the cycle last season in an extra inning win at Furman in the first recorded cycle for a WCU player since at least the late 1980s, according to available research. The last three cycles for WCU have each come in a Sunday series finale.
In addition to the dueling middle infielders, senior Adam Martin doubled and homered in a 3-for-4, four RBI afternoon while redshirt senior Taylor Sandefur doubled twice in a 3-for-6, three run scoring performance for WCU. Junior Jacob Hoyle finished 2-for-4 with his team-leading 14th RBI in the win.
Western Carolina (7-2) jumped out on top with five runs in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by Martin lacing a two-RBI double down the left field line and a three-run home run to right by senior Dykota Spiess. After giving two runs back in the top of the second after the long home half, the Catamounts again scratched the scoreboard in the bottom of the second inning as Martin drove in a second run, plating Strong with a single to right field giving WCU a 6-2 lead.
Both Strong and Attaway tripled two batters a part in a four-run third with the previous driving home senior Cody Jones on his three-bag hit and the latter bringing home both Strong and Gragg on his three-base hit. WCU led 10-2 through three complete innings.
La Salle rallied in the top of the fourth, though, trimming the WCU advantage back to two, 10-8, with a six-run effort. The Explorers had a stretch where six of seven-straight batters delivered run-scoring hits including a pair of RBI doubles.
WCU tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth on a two-RBI single by Strong to reclaim a four-run advantage only to see La Salle match in the top of the fifth with a two-run scoring double by George Smith Jr.
Western Carolina seized control in the bottom of the fifth, however, pushing across six runs on six hits, pulling ahead 18-10. Martin led off the decisive fifth with a solo homer over the left field wall with Sandefur doubling and later scoring on a RBI single by J.D. Long. The inning continued with a run-scoring double by Strong and Attaway's three-run bomb to left center.
The Catamounts would add solo runs in the sixth on Strong's cycle homer and eighth on a pinch hit RBI single by Danny Bermudez to score Sandefur to provide the final tally, 20-10.
Freshman reliever Nate Williams (1-0) picked up his first career victory, tossing 3.2 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief out of the bullpen, striking out two on the day. Catamount starter T.J. Fussell factored in the no-decision, allowing eight runs on nine hits with a walk in 3.2 innings on the mound. Despite gaining solid run support, Fussell was forced to sit a long period between time on the hill with WCU sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of both the first and third innings - consequentially, the top of the second and fourth were big innings for La Salle.
Working back from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him up until this point, senior RHP Tyler Powell made his 2014 season debut, allowing one hit before retiring three-straight batters including two by strikeout to close the ninth inning.
La Salle (1-9) had two players finish 2-for-4 with three RBI in the losing effort. First baseman Mark Williams hit a two-run home run as a part of his two-hit, three RBI outing while Smith doubled twice, also driving in a trio of runs. Cameron Johnson (2-for-5) and Kevin Conroy (3-for-4) also collected multi-hit games for the visitors while red-hot hitting shortstop Kevin Baron, who was 6-for-9 (.667) entering the finale, was held to one hit - a double - with an RBI and a run scored in a 1-for-5 showing on Sunday.
Explorers starter Alex Faust (0-2) suffered the loss after surrendering five earned runs on two hits including the three-run home run to Spiess in the bottom of the first inning. Reliever Greg Krug struck out four in two innings of work with Tom Fazzini and Mike McLeod also recording K's out of the La Salle pen.
Western Carolina wraps up its current four-game home stand on Tuesday evening as it welcomes the nationally-ranked Clemson Tigers to Childress Field / Hennon Stadium for a 4:00 pm. Tuesday's game will be televised live on WMYA-TV, My40 out of Asheville/Greenville, with a simulcast available online at ESPN3.com (subject to blackout). Air time is set for 3:30 pm for the pregame show.