March 21, 2014
Elon, N.C. - Western Carolina senior Dykota Spiess drove home his longtime teammate Aaron Attaway on a fourth-inning sacrifice fly to give the Catamounts a short-lived, 1-0, lead on Friday evening. However, the home-standing Phoenix pushed across three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a lead it would never relinquish as Elon handed the Catamounts a 5-1 loss in their Southern Conference opener at Latham Park.
Four Catamounts combined for the five base hits on the day with senior Cody Jones pacing the squad with a 2-for-4 showing at the plate with a pair of singles. Red-hot hitting catcher Adam Martin and third baseman J.D. Long both doubled for the Catamounts who dropped their league-opener for the fifth-time in the last seven seasons - all coming on the road.
One of the predominant storylines for Western Carolina (11-9, 0-1 SoCon) on Friday night was missed opportunities. WCU had a couple of chances inside the first five frames to scratch the scoreboard against Elon and its two-time defending SoCon Pitcher of the Week, Lucas Bakker.
In the third inning, sophomore J.D. Long delivered the game's first hit with a double down the left field line, and was moved to third with runners on the corners after Bradley Strong singled into right center field. However, the Catamounts were unable to put a marker on the board as Long was caught in a run down between home and third after a pitch bounced away from Elon catcher, Chris Hall, but not far enough to score the run.
In the top of the fifth inning, Jones led off with an infield single to short before a wild pitch moved him to second base. Luke Gragg drove a fly ball to right to advance Jones to third with just one out. Two batters later, though, Jones tried to come home as a ball again rolled away from Hall behind the dish. Hall recovered to deliver a strike to Bakker covering home to retire Jones and end the visitor's threat.
Elon (14-7, 3-1 SoCon) capitalized in the bottom of the fifth with the lower third of its order doing the damage. Back-to-back one-out singles by Hall and Chris King put two aboard before Andy Moore drew a walk to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed Hall to score the game-tying run, moving runners to second and third. Lead-off batter Quinn Bower grounded out to short to drive in the go-ahead marker with Ryan Cooper driving in the third run on an infield single.
WCU again put two runners aboard in the seventh inning as Adam Martin doubled followed by the second single of the game by Jones with just one out. However, the Catamounts could not find the timely hit with a runner in scoring position.
In the top of the eighth, pinch hitter Danny Bermudez was plunked by a pitch for the fourth time this season and Spiess drew a walk to again give the Catamounts two base runners. However, WCU was unable to score, continuing to trail by two after seven and a half innings.
Elon tallied two insurance runs in the eighth inning to provide the final tally, 5-1.
Junior starter Jeremy Null (2-1) took the loss for the Catamounts, allowing three runs on just four hits, countering a season-high four walks with five strikeouts. Senior T.J. Fussell tossed one inning out of the bullpen, striking out one while allowing two runs on two hits.
Left fielder Casey Jones led five Phoenix players with hits on the night, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored for Elon. King was 1-for-2 with a walk while Moore drew two of the four walks issued by Catamount pitching.
Bakker (4-1) scored the victory for Elon, limiting the potent WCU offense to just one unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Reliever Ryan Pennell picked up his fourth save of the season
Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for Saturday afternoon with first pitch at 4:00 pm. WCU is slated to start freshman LHP Bryan Sammons. The game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard online through CatamountSports.com.