March 12, 2014
Kennesaw, Ga. - Owl catcher Brennan Morgan rolled a walk-off single through the right side to score Jacob Bruce from second base as Kennesaw State outlasted Western Carolina, 4-3, in 12 innings Wednesday night in nonconference action at Stillwell Stadium.
Bruce opened the home portion of the decisive frame with an infield single to first base, foreshadowing what was to come. A wild pitch moved the game-winning run to second base, prompting WCU to intentionally walk Max Pentecost, who finished the game 3-for-5 with two singles and a double. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Morgan dribbled the first pitch of his at bat to the right side, just beyond the infield dirt to allow Bruce to scamper home for the winning run.
Western Carolina, which dropped its fifth-straight game, had a golden opportunity in the top of what proved to be the final frame after loading the bases with just one out. However, the Catamounts were unable to push across the go-ahead marker, stranding three of their 15 runners left on base in the 12th.
Kennesaw State's walk-off win spoiled two solid pitching performances for WCU. Sophomore Alex Barr factored in a no-decision, tossing a career-long 6.1 innings in his first collegiate start. The Hamptonville, N.C., native struck out a career-best six against three walks, surrendering two unearned runs on three hits. At one point, Barr retired 12-straight Owls consecutively.
Barr gave way to senior T.J. Fussell (0-2) who took the tough luck loss. Fussell tossed the final five frames, allowing two runs - one unearned - on five hits while matching Barr's six K's with three walks.
Kennesaw State (11-9) was opportunistic in the win, cashing in on two WCU errors. In the first inning, a one-out throwing error allowed centerfielder Justin Motely to reach while also witnessing Kal Simmons score the game's first run, scoring from second base on the overthrow. The Owls' second run of the inning scored after what would have been the third out, tallying a 2-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs.
Western Carolina answered in the top of the fifth inning. Bradley Strong led off with a single to left field before promptly stealing both second and third base to move himself into scoring position. Dykota Spiess drew a walk to put runners at the corners ahead of Adam Martin. Playing close to his hometown of Marietta, Ga., Martin sent a shot off the side of the mound, reaching on a fielder's choice as Spiess was retired on a force at second, but driving home Strong who scored easily on the play.
The Catamount fifth-inning rally continued as Jacob Hoyle singled to right center, moving Martin to third before Dale Urquhart Jr., drew one of his two walks to load the bases. Senior Cody Jones then delivered a two RBI single to left center field to push Western Carolina ahead, 3-2.
KSU again struck on a WCU error in the eighth inning, plating the game-tying run after a ball bounced over Hoyle's glove at first base on what would have been the inning-ending out. Pentecost, who opened the frame with a double down the left field line, scored from third base to tie the game at three and ultimately forcing extra innings and setting up the 12th-inning heroics for the home squad.
Three Catamounts finished with two-hit games as Spiess (2-for-5), Hoyle (2-for-5) and Jones (2-for-4) each tallied two base knocks Jones driving in two. Martin and Urquhart Jr., legged out WCU's lone extra base hits, both with a double.
KSU reliever James Connell (2-1) scored the win out of the bullpen, tossing the final four shutout innings for the Owls. The sixth of six pitchers used by Kennesaw State, Connell scattered four hits and worked around two walks with three strikeouts. Starter Kendall Hawkins tossed the first four frames of three-hit, scoreless baseball with WCU tagging reliever Mason Ward for three runs on two hits, taking advantage of two walks in just a third of an inning of work.
Pentecost (3-for-5) accounted for three of Kennesaw State's eight hits while Morgan collected two hits in six plate appearances including the game-winning tally with two RBI.
Western Carolina (8-7) returns home to open a stretch of four-straight home games beginning with a three-game nonconference set against Rider on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 pm at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.