March 6, 2008
Houston, Texas - Western Carolina was unable to come back from a late-inning rally by Michigan State, and fell in the first game of the Rice Invitational in Houston, Texas, 5-3, Thursday afternoon. WCU scored two runs in the first three innings, but were unable to push across any more until the top of the ninth.
Senior catcher Blake Murphy's second double of the afternoon plated the Catamounts' second run, in the top of the third inning. Murphy just missed a home run on the play, putting the ball off the wall in left center, and scoring classmate Barrett Shaft on a close play at the plate to put WCU up, 2-1.
Michigan State (4-6) tied the game back up in the bottom of the fifth, manufacturing a run on a sacrifice fly to score the runner from third, pulling the game even at 2-2.
MSU broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh inning, putting a man on with a single to open the frame, then scoring on a single by second basesman Brandon Doherty, putting the Spartans up, 3-2. Relief pitcher, junior Corey Martin, despite giving up the run, struck out a pair of batters to end the inning and keep the WCU deficit at a single run. They tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth to push their lead to three runs, 5-2.
In the top of the ninth, junior J.C. Lyons connected on his team-leading fourth home run of the game, a high fly ball that cleared the 375 foot sign in left center field, pulling the Catamounts within two. However, it was too little too late for the Cats, who were unable to get any closer.
Western was once again plagued by an inability to capitalize when they put men on base. Through the eighth inning, they had stranded 12 runners, while only scoring two runs.
Murphy and Shaft both recorded a pair of base hits on the day, joining Haynes for the team lead. Lyons, Liles, John and Ryan Mathews also had a hit in the game for the Catamounts.
Senior Tyler Sexton, who started the game and pitched the first 6.1 innings, struck out four batters on the day, while allowing three runs on six hits with one walk. Martin, who was given the loss, gave up one earned run in his lone inning of work, with a pair of strikeouts. Freshman Brandon Johnson, who came into the game for the final two outs, was able to get through both his batters faced without giving up a hit.
WCU will look to get back on the winning track when they take on the Creighton Blue Jays on Friday in Houston. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Central Time. Fans can follow the action via GameTracker, on CatamountSports.com.