Cullowhee, N.C. - For a second-straight day, Western Carolina baseball jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, doing so on Saturday afternoon on Luke Robinson's first career home run and a run-scoring single by Bryson Bowman. However, Kent State rode a 10-run top of the third and never looked back, holding off the Catamounts to even the best-of-three series with a 16-10 victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
The series rubber match is scheduled for a 1:00 pm first pitch on Sunday afternoon in a game that will be broadcast on the SoCon Digital Network (SoConDN.com/wcu).
Kent State (10-6) sent 15 batters to the plate in the third inning, hitting three of their six home runs on the day in succession including a three-run shot by Josh Hollander, part of his two-hit outing. The Golden Flashes scored runs in five-consecutive frames including two in the fourth and solo markers in the fifth through seventh to maintain the advantage.
Western Carolina (8-10) posted a trio strong innings with three in the second and sixth innings before a four-spot in the ninth. But it was not enough to overcome the early deficit
Bowman extended his reached base safely streak to 18-straight games -- each played this season -- doing so in his first at bat with a double down the left field line. A redshirt senior from Baton, N.C., Bowman led the Catamounts with a 3-for-6, two RBI showing at the plate as four Catamounts recorded multi-hit games. Junior Brett Pope has an eight-game hit streak following a 2-for-5 day with a pair of singles.
Junior Spencer Holcomb, starting as the designated hitter, blasted a three-run home run over the fence in right center in the ninth inning as a part of a 2-for-5 showing, tying for the team lead with three round-trippers this season. Freshman Luke Robinson also belted a towering home run down the right field line in a 1-for-2, two RBI outing.
Also for the Catamounts, redshirt freshman Justin Sparks ignited a three-run sixth inning with a pinch hit single into right center field, finishing 2-for-3 for a second-straight day with a pair of singles. Redshirt sophomore Matthew Koehler kept his hit streak active, stretching it nine-consecutive with a ninth-inning single through the right side.
WCU starter Tristan Baker (1-2) was saddled with the loss after two and a third innings of work, allowing 10 runs on nine hits with a walk and a strikeout as a part of a 1-2-3 top of the first inning. Reliever Jacob Breakfield struck out three in an inning and two thirds, scattering four hits with two runs allowed. Senior Chad Mabini matched his career-long with five innings in relief, striking out a season-high four with four runs allowed on seven hits.
Kent State had seven players collect two-or-more hits on Saturday afternoon including a game-high four for second baseman Dom Iero who finished a triple shy of the cycle, driving in three including a solo homer to right. Hollander drove in three on his three-run home run in the 10-run third, matched by Mason Mamarella who was 2-for-6 with three RBI. Outfielder Nick Kanavas also tallied a solo homer in a 3-for-5 performance in the win.
Zach Willeman (3-2) picked up the victory after limiting WCU to three runs on just five hits over five innings of work. Willeman struck out four against two walks. The Catamounts tagged relievers Jared Skolnicki for three runs and Patrick Dayton for four on four this before Zach Spangler recorded the final out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Game three of the three-game nonconference home series is slated for 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon.