March 19, 2011
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina was unable to dig out of a four-run hole as Elon jumped out to a 4-0 lead through the first three innings, capped by a three-run home run by Neal Pritchard in handing the Catamounts a 5-4 loss in Southern Conference play at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
The final game of the series is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Sunday afternoon.
WCU (8-9, 0-5 SoCon) chipped away at the Phoenix lead, scoring single runs in the fifth and ninth innings with a two-run seventh, but were unable to overtake Elon on the day in dropping the best-of-three series.
Freshman starter Jordan Smith (2-2) surrendered five earned runs on five hits through six and a third in suffering his second-straight loss. The Liberty, N.C., native fanned three against one walk. Morgan McKinney worked one inning of hitless, scoreless relief out of the bullpen with Kyle Deese striking out three in an inning and two-thirds, allowing one base hit.
Elon (14-6, 5-0 SoCon) took the early 4-0 lead with a run in the second and a three-run third inning where all three runs came with two outs. Niko Fraser was hit by a pitch ahead of Alex Swim who singled to right center moving runners to the corners. Pritchard then drove the second pitch of his at bat over the left field fence to spot the Phoenix to a 4-0 advantage.
Pritchard finished 2-for-4, scoring twice and driving in three.
In the fifth, WCU broke the shutout with a run, closing back within three, 4-1. Stephen Notaro and Adam Martin opened with back-to-back singles with Tyler White sacrificing them into scoring position. Freshman Aaron Attaway drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases ahead of Cameron Dullnig, who grounded out but drove in Notaro from third. However, the Catamounts stranded two in scoring position.
The Phoenix manufactured a run in the top of the seventh as Jake Luce lifted a bases loaded, sacrifice fly to right field where Dullnig made a diving stab to take away a would-be base hit, but allowed Cyle Rasmus to score from third.
Down 5-1, the Catamounts scratched the scoreboard twice in the home half of the seventh inning. The frame opened with consecutive walks issued to both Notaro and Martin with White singling to left field to load the bases and to chase Elon starting pitcher Ken Ferrer. Attaway drove in a run with a fielder's choice along the middle of the Phoenix infield. Dullnig then drove in his second run of the game on another infield ground out, cutting the deficit to two, 5-3. But again, the Catamounts left two on base when the inning closed.
Ferrer (3-0) earned the win after lasting into the seventh, credited with six innings pitched allowing three runs on four hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Dylan Clark tossed two innings of relief, walking and fanning one while Mitch Conner earned his third save - and second in as many days - tossing the ninth inning, allowing one run on one hit with a walk and a strikeout.
In the ninth, Martin blasted his third home run of the season, belting the first pitch of the frame over the left center field fence to pull the Catamounts back within a run, 5-4. A ground out and fly ball out to center field seemingly diminished WCU's chances, yet the Catamounts continued to threaten with two away. Freshman pinch hitter Cody Jones drew a four-pitch walk and Schultz reached on a fielder's choice to put two aboard ahead of freshman Dykota Spiess who struck out swinging to end the game.
Martin finished 2-for-3 to lead the Catamounts offensively, adding a walk and a strikeout. Notaro was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and two runs scored.