March 20, 2011
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina fell behind by seven runs through the first four innings on Sunday afternoon before scoring two runs in three of the final five frames including loading the bases in the ninth inning. However, Elon was able to hold off the Catamount rally to complete the three-game Southern Conference baseball sweep with a 9-6 win at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Freshman RHP Dakotah Thomas (1-1) took the loss as one of seven different pitchers to toe the rubber for the Catamounts on Sunday afternoon. Thomas worked three and a third, allowing three runs - only two of which were earned - on two hits with four walks against a pair of strikeouts. Sophomore Taylor Sandefur lasted two and two thirds in the longest appearance of the six relievers, walking four with a pair of strikeouts. Senior Brandon Johnson closed the final inning and two-thirds of one-hit relief, walking and fanning one.
Elon's Jared Kernodle (3-1) scored the victory after limiting WCU to two runs on six hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Reliever David Whitehead worked three and a third of four-run, four-hit action while also walking four with a strikeout. John Brebbia picked up his first save of the year, inducing a game-ending ground ball out on the would-be game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth.
All told, the two pitching staffs combined for 20 walks, a pair of hit batters and four wild pitches on the afternoon. As a result, the teams left a combined 23 runners on base including 12 by WCU and 11 by the Phoenix, and both teams turned two double plays in the field.
Elon (15-6, 6-0 SoCon) capitalized on a pair of Catamount errors in the third inning as Eric Serra drew a one-out walk before swiping second base. The throw down to second skipped into center field allowing Serra to move to third while the relay from center field was overthrown allowing him to scamper home to give the Phoenix the 1-0 lead through three.
The lead grew to four with three runs on just two hits in the fourth inning for Elon, with the visitors stretching the lead to seven by again plating three runs on two hits in the fifth. In the latter, WCU was unable to take advantage of a dropped tag at home plate that would have been the second out of the inning. The Catamounts also issued two HBP's and a walk during Elon's rally.
Western Carolina (8-10, 0-6 SoCon) got on the board in the home half of the fifth inning as Aaron Attaway singled ahead of senior Austin Schultz who belted his first home run of the season, a two-run shot over the left field wall. With two outs, a walk and consecutive singles loaded the bases for WCU, but Elon survived with a strikeout to end the frame, trailing 7-2.
An inning later, the Catamounts again scratched the scoreboard for two runs as freshman Luke Gragg welcomed Whitehead to the mound with a second-pitch double down the right field line. Attaway walked to put two aboard with Schultz sacrificing the two into scoring position. Consecutive wild pitches by Whitehead allowed both Gragg and Attaway to score, but that would be all the runs WCU would manage with the score 7-4 through six innings.
Schultz finished 1-for-3 with a walk and the sacrifice hit, driving in two on his homer.
Elon stretched its lead back to five runs in the top of the eighth inning, leading 9-4 as the Catamounts came to the plate down to their final three outs.
In the bottom of the ninth, two singles by Ross Heffley and Tyler White sandwiched around a one-out walk by Adam Martin loaded the bases for the Catamounts. Freshman pinch hitter Cody Jones then singled to left to drive in Heffley while Gragg lifted a sacrifice fly to center to allow Martin to tag and score. Redshirt junior Cameron Dullnig was called on to pinch hit, representing the game-tying run, but reliever Brebbia got the San Antonio, Texas, native to ground out to second to end the game.
White led the Catamounts with a 3-for-4 showing at the plate with a trio of singles while Martin also collected two base hits in a 2-for-4 finish. Sebastian Gomez finished 2-for-3 with two walks for the Phoenix while Niko Fraser was 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored. Garrett Koster drove in three runs in the win for Elon, finishing 1-for-4.
Western Carolina hosts Gardner-Webb in mid-week nonconference action Wednesday evening at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 pm.