March 14, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina used a seven-run fourth inning to rally past the Clemson Tigers 8-4 Wednesday evening in nonconference action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. WCU won its ninth-straight home game this season, and the 12th-consecutive dating back to the end of last season.
Junior transfer Jon Nadale (2-0) pitched four scoreless relief innings, only allowing two hits to get the win for the Catamounts. Sophomore Luke Gragg went 3-for-4, igniting the seven run inning with a pinch hit single and later driving in two runs on a second hit in the frame. Senior Ross Heffley finished 2-for-4 with two RBI on a two-run home run, his second of the season.
Trailing 4-1 after three innings, Gragg started the Catamount rally with a single to left center followed by a walk to Dykota Spiess. With two aboard, sophomore catcher Adam Martin laced a full-count double to the fence in right center, scoring both runners to close the deficit back to one, 4-3. Two batters later, Martin touched home with the game-tying run, chasing Tiger starter Daniel Gossett after three and a third innings pitched.
Reliever David Haselden (1-1), who took the loss for the Tigers, plunked Tyler White to rekindle the WCU rally with Heffley driving a full-count pitch out to left field to push the Catamounts ahead for good, 6-4.
A pair of singles by Jacob Hoyle and Cody Jones sandwiched around a ground out for the second of the inning put two on as Gragg came to the plate for a second time. The Moravian Falls, N.C., native plated the two base runners with his second hit of the frame, a single to left to provide the 8-4 margin.
WCU's pitching staff did the rest as Nadale retired 11-consecutive Tiger hitters after coming on in the top of the fourth inning. His string was halted by a single to left center by Garrett Boulware. A walk issued to Thomas Brittle put two on for Clemson when Steve Wilkerson lifted one of his three hits on the day to left field for a single. However, the WCU left fielder, Spiess, gunned Boulware down at the plate to end the inning and Tiger threat.
After the play at the dish, Clemson only had one base runner the final two innings as reliever Jeremy Sluder issued a walk in an inning of relief work. Junior Preston Hatcher shut the door in the ninth, fanning one in an inning of action out of the bullpen.
Junior Adam Curtis - who was pitching on short rest after coming out of the pen over the weekend at The Citadel - started the game, factoring in a no-decision after allowing four runs - only two of which were earned - on five hits in three innings.
All told, Western Carolina (13-4) pitchers collectively held the heart of the Tiger's line-up - batters No. 3 through No. 7 - to just one hit on the day. At one point, Curtis and Nadale combined to retire 14 Tigers in a row
Five Catamounts posted multiple hits in the win as WCU hung 14 on the scoreboard. Classmates Gragg and Jones both had three hits while White, Heffley and Hoyle recorded two hits each. Martin drove in two on his fifth double of the season.
Despite the hitting display, the Catamounts stranded 13 runners on base in the victory.
Haselden took the loss after only recording a third of an inning in relief of freshman Daniel Gossett, who was making his first career start. Gossett threw three and a third, allowing four runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts. His wild pitch that allowed the game-tying run to score ended his day. Hasleden faced six batters, surrendering four earned runs on four hits with a strikeout.
The Tiger bullpen in the form of Scott Firth and Jonathan Meyer worked the final four and a third scoreless, scattering four WCU hits while issuing three walks.
Western Carolina opened the scoring in the top of the first inning as Aaron Attaway drove the first pitch of his at bat to right field ahead of White who moved runners to the corners with a single down the right field line. The rally appeared to be in jeopardy as Heffley lined into a double-play at short, but Hoyle tallied his 28th RBI of the season on a single to left center, plating Attaway and giving the Catamounts the 1-0 lead through one.
In the top half of the second, Clemson (6-8) responded as Phil Pohl singled to left center and later moved to third on an infield error. First baseman Jon McGibbon drove him home on a ground out to second, knotting the game at one after two frames.
The Tigers took advantage of three hits and three WCU errors in the top of the third to push across three runs to take the 4-1 lead in the game. Brittle started the rally with an infield bunt single, taking second on a throwing error on the putout attempt. Wilkerson then delivered a single up the middle to plate the go-ahead run. Another infield bunt single by Jason Stolz put two on when Richie Shaffer flew out to right, advancing Wilkerson to third. However, a throwing error on the relay back into the infield allowed Wilkerson to scamper home with Shaffer moving to second and later third base. Pohl then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate the third run of the inning.
Western Carolina travels to Jacksonville, Fla., this weekend to take on the Dolphins of Jacksonville for a two-game series before playing Fairfield on Sunday afternoon. All three games will be held at John Sessions Stadium. The Catamounts and Dolphins, who last met in the 2007 NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, will play Friday and Saturday night at 6:30 pm, while WCU plays the Stags of Fairfield at 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon.
All three games are scheduled to be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard online at www.CatamountSports.com.