March 7, 2007
Cullowhee, N.C. - Mercer plated 10 runs in the top of the fourth inning to erase a 3-1 Western Carolina lead, and then held the Catamounts off over the final five frames to earn the 13-10 win in non-conference action Wednesday afternoon at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium. WCU pounded out a season-high 20 base hits, but also stranded 15 base runners including leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
After surrendering the lead with 10 runs in the fourth, Western (7-5) countered with six runs in the home half of the frame. Junior Steven Strausbaugh opened up the frame by lining a full count pitch up the middle to put one on for senior Kenny Smith. The Asheville, N.C., native delivered his team-leading fifth home run to left center to pull WCU back within six, 11-5. Junior Barrett Shaft drew a one-out walk and had moved into scoring position on a wild pitch before freshman Nick Liles laced a double to center field to score Shaft.
With two away in the inning and Liles on third, junior Blake Murphy walked in front of senior John Ingram, who singled through the left side to score Liles and making it 11-6. Strausbaugh, batting for the second time in the fourth, drew a bases loaded walk for an RBI, with Smith delivering a two-out single to short to score the sixth and final run, slicing the deficit to just two, 11-9.
All told in the fourth, the two squads combined for 16 runs on 14 hits and left a combined four runners on base.
Mercer (11-7) stretched its lead back to four in the sixth inning with a two run homer. Murphy posted back-to-back outs for the Catamounts, gunning down two would-be base stealers at second to put two away. Third baseman, Liles, was charged with just his fourth error of the season on a hard hit ball that skipped off his shoulder to keep the inning alive for the Bears' Steven Karwatt, who hit a two-run homer over the left field fence. Murphy did record the final out of the inning, catching a foul ball near the backstop screen to retire the side.
The Catamounts added a run in the eighth as Smith doubled down the left field line and scored on an RBI single by pinch hitter Andy John to close to within three, 13-10.
In the ninth, against Mercer's top closer Cory Gearrin, Western loaded the bases but could not push a run across. Gearrin, who had only allowed seven walks versus 23 strikeouts in just over 12 innings of work this season, offered back-to-back free passes to Liles and junior Jonathan Greene to put two on with nobody out. However, the junior from Dayton, Tenn., tallied two consecutive strikeouts before allowing a third base runner, senior Donnie Wilson, on a third base on balls.
Yet, Gearrin managed to pitch out of trouble, inducing a fly ball to center field to earn his fifth save of the season.
WCU starter Tyler Johnson (0-2) suffered his second defeat of the year, tossing three complete innings before being lifted in the top of the fourth inning after facing five batters without recording an out. Johhson allowed six earned runs on five hits, striking out and walking two. Reliever Ryne Nelson entered the game with the bases loaded, surrendering a three-RBI double to left center on a 1-2 pitch that cleared the bases. He finished with one inning pitched, giving up five earned runs and striking out one.
The remainder of the Catamount bullpen, including freshman Daniel Ottone, sophomore Bryan Corbett, and junior Andrew Larrimore, combined to hold Mercer to two runs on just five hits over the final five innings.
A trio of Catamounts finished 4-for-5 on the day as Shaft, Liles and Smith each racked up four hits. Shaft scored three runs with Liles and Smith each touching the dish twice and the latter recording a team-high three RBI. Murphy finished 2-for-4 with a walk and his third double of the season, also driving in two.
For Mercer, right-hander Andy Campbell earned his second victory on the season, pitching an inning and a third of scoreless relief. Karwatt tallied a game-high five RBI on a 3-for-5 day at the plate. He, along with designated hitter Tyler Brown were the lone Bears with more than two hits.
Western opens a three-game home series with the Xavier Musketeers this Friday, March 9 at 3:00 pm at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium. The two will also play at 1:00 pm on both Saturday (March 10) and Sunday (March 11).