March 21, 2012
Asheville, N.C. - Sophomore Cody Jones broke an 11-inning scoreless tie, blasting a towering solo home run over the fence and scoreboard combination in right center field in the top of the 12th inning at historic McCormick Field on Wednesday night to give the Catamounts a short-lived lead.
However, a costly error allowed UNC Asheville to stay alive in the home portion of the frame when Patrick Koontz answered with a walk-off, three-run home run over the 37-foot high fence that protects the short porch in right field to hand the Bulldogs a dramatic 3-1 victory over Western Carolina in midweek, nonconference action.
The victory marks the third-straight by UNCA over its mountain-rival, WCU, matching the longest such win streak in series history. The Bulldogs swept the two seasonal meetings a year ago.
One batter after outfielder Julian Ridings was caught around first on a single to right field to lead off the 12th-inning, Jones broke the scoreless affair with his second solo home run of the year to give WCU the 1-0 advantage.
With reliever Jon Nadale (2-1) on the hill in the home portion of the frame, the Catamounts retired the first two batters as Ian Graham flew out to center and Todd Joyner tapped one back to the mound for two outs. Nadale then worked quickly ahead of Bulldog freshman Hunter Bryant, 0-2. Bryant managed to stay alive with a pair of foul balls before plunking a single into right field to keep the inning going.
WCU (15-6) was nearly out of the frame as UNCA's third baseman Cody Buch dribbled one up the first base line, but the Catamounts were unable to field it cleanly allowing Buch to reach on the error to put two aboard and again continue the inning.
Koontz, a senior, was then summoned from the dugout to pinch hit for the Bulldogs. He worked the count to 2-1 before hitting the long home run over the fence in right to hand UNCA its second extra inning victory of the season.
Ridings led the Catamounts with three base hits on the night, all coming after he entered the game as a pinch hitter and defensive substitution in the seventh inning. Freshman Bradley Strong also tallied three hits, finishing 3-for-4 including a shot off the right field fence he legged out for a double in the 10th inning.
Jones - who stretched his current hitting streak to a career-long seven games - and his classmate Aaron Attaway collected two hits apiece, finishing 2-for-5.
Both teams squandered opportunities throughout the game. UNC Asheville combined to leave 15 men on base - leaving a runner on in each of the first 10 innings before WCU turned in a perfect 11th behind Nadale. The Catamounts stranded seven on base and had two runners thrown out trying to steal second in the seventh inning, and one trying to reach third from first on a hit to right field in the ninth inning.
Despite its success of putting runners on base, UNCA's best chance at scoring in regulation came in the sixth inning. A double by Buch and two-out walks by Casey Ebersole and Eli Miller loaded the bases and chased starter Adam Curtis in the process. Catamount senior reliever Darron Dotson then threw one low that true freshman Connor Andrus could not handle, squirting towards the backstop. Andrus rushed to the ball, throwing back to the dish where Dotson made a swiping tag on Buch for the out, ending the inning and keeping the dueling shutouts intact.
Asheville used 10 pitchers in the game with nine combining to keep the Catamounts off the scoreboard until Jones' solo homer in the 12th. Justin Hunt (1-0), who surrendered the solo homer in the top of what proved to be the final inning, picked up the victory after tossing one frame with two hits allowed and one strikeout.
Nadale was saddled with the tough loss after three unearned runs came across on the homer in the home half of the 12th inning. The Petaloma, Calif., native only allowed two hits in the inning and two thirds he pitched. Curtis struck out four against three walks in the starting role with Dotson, Hunter Brister Tyler Powell and Vance Chavis combining to toss an inning and two-thirds in situational relief.
Catamount closer Preston Hatcher threw two and two-thirds innings, pitching around two walks with three strikeouts allowing just one hit.
Western Carolina (15-6) returns home to open a four-game home stand with a three-game Southern Conference series against UNC Greensboro at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Friday's first pitch is scheduled for 5:00 pm with Saturday at 2:00 pm and Sunday's finale set for 1:00 pm. The Catamounts have dropped five-straight to the Spartans in the head-to-head series including the last two meetings in Cullowhee during the 2010 season.
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