Cullowhee, N.C. - Kennesaw State rode a seven-run second inning to a sizeable lead it would never relinquish as the Owls halted a three-game road losing skid at Western Carolina on Thursday, handing the Catamounts a 12-3 loss in nonconference action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Kennesaw State opened up a nine-run lead through the first three innings, and seized momentum by ending the bottom of each of the first three frames with double-plays to thwart any thoughts of a Catamount rally early. WCU clawed back to within seven with a two-run fourth inning thanks to run-scoring doubles by Caleb Robinson and Matthew Koehler, but it was as close as WCU would get in the loss.
Three Catamounts posted two-hit games with both Robinson and Koehler tallying RBI doubles as a part of 2-for-4 showings at the plate. Koehler added a stolen base late. Redshirt senior J.D. Long singled twice in a 2-for-3 performance, posting his second two-hit game of the season. Junior Spencer Holcomb reached on an infield pinch hit single, racing home on a RBI double by Brett Pope in the ninth inning.
Senior Bryson Bowman delivered a sharp single into right center field in the fifth inning to extend his reached base safely streak to 16-consecutive -- each game this season.
WCU starter Dillon Bray (0-2) suffered the loss, allowing nine runs -- seven of which were earned -- on seven hits with three walks against a trio of strikeouts. Six relievers combined for the final six innings with Jake Moebius the first out of the bullpen for the Catamounts. Jacob Breakfield tossed his second-straight 1-2-3 inning over his last two outings, while Brendan Nail worked around a walk to strikeout the side in recording three outs. Junior Dylan Biumi pitched an inning and a third with three strikeouts, allowing two runs on two hits with Corey Sikes striking out one in two-thirds of a frame.
Making his WCU debut, San Luis Obispo, Calif., native, junior transfer Jake Niezen worked around a lead-off walk with a double-play ground ball, adding a strikeout to end his first inning of work.
Kennesaw State (8-8) had five players post two-hit games led by catcher Griffin Helms, who hit a grand slam home run in the seven-runs second inning, and Grant Williams who delivered a pair of two-hit extra base hits with a second inning double and a third inning home run.
Owl starter Chris Erwin (1-1) scattered six hits over six innings, striking out three against three walks to score the victory. The left-hander kept WCU's hitters off-balance, limiting the Catamounts to two earned runs and benefiting from three double-plays. Turner Watkins struck out two in two innings of two-hit relief while Jordan Krueger was tagged for a run on two hits in the ninth.
Western Carolina (7-9) continues its five-game home stand on Friday, opening a three-game nonconference series against Kent State (9-5) at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Game one is scheduled for a 5:00 pm first pitch -- but that could be moved earlier as forecasts for late Friday evening are questionable. Fans can keep track of any weather-related schedule changes online at CatamountSports.com or through WCU Athletics' social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts or @WCUBaseballBSB).
The first two games of the series will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio online at CatamountSports.com. Sunday's series finale will be available with live video through the SoCon Digital Network (socondn.com/wcu).