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Catamounts Take Series Opener over Elon Friday, 7-5

Senior Preston Hatcher picked up his fifth save of the season giving him 15 in his career, matching former closer Daniel Ottone (2007-10) for sixth in the career record books. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

March 22, 2013

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Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina rallied to score three runs in the home half of the third inning to claim a lead it would never relinquish, upending the Elon Phoenix, 7-5, to take game one Friday afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

WCU (13-9, 5-2 SoCon)had three players post multiple hit games with a trio driving in two runs apiece in halting a six-game home losing skid to Elon that dated back to 2009. The win also snapped Elon's five-game win streak. Catamount pitching recorded 14 strikeouts on Friday, just two shy of its seasonal high. It was the seventh time this season WCU has posted double-digit K's in a game.

Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for a 2:00 pm first pitch on Saturday afternoon. Fans are encouraged to check for any weather-related schedule changes.

Starter Jeremy Null (2-1) fanned seven Phoenix batters through six innings of works, surrendering four runs while scattering six hits and walking two. The bullpen did its job as freshman Alex Barr allowed one run in a hitless inning of relief with two K's while Tyler Powell struck out two of the batters he retired, benefiting from a strikeout-caught stealing double-play in the eighth.

Senior closer Preston Hatcher earned his fifth save of the season, working around a lead-off walk and a one-out single that put runners at the corners. The Atlanta, Ga., native struck out the side in the ninth to secure the series-opening victory for the Catamounts. Hatcher earned his 15th career save moving him into a tie for sixth all-time in WCU's record books matching former right-handed closer Daniel Ottone (15 saves, 2007-10).

Junior Julian Ridings paced the Catamounts with a perfect 3-for-3 showing at the dish including his fourth double of the season. The Shelby, N.C., native added a stolen base and a sacrifice bunt, raising his seasonal average to .423. His classmate, Aaron Attaway, joined him with three hits in a 3-for-4 showing, scoring three runs and swiping two bags in the win.

WCU's RBI leader Tyler White added two more markers to his tally finishing 2-for-3 while Bradley Strong hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to right field in the fourth inning that helped propel the Catamounts to the victory.

Elon (12-9, 5-5 SoCon) opened scoring in the top of the first inning, tallying two runs after WCU had recorded two outs. Antonio Alvarez doubled down the left field line ahead of Ryan Kinsella who homered to right field to give the Phoenix a 2-0 lead.

Friday's game marked just the fifth time this season the Phoenix has scored in the first frame.

The Catamounts responded in the bottom of the first as Ridings put the home squad on the board with an RBI single up the middle to score Aaron Attaway who singled off the first pitch he saw to open the inning.

All told on the year, WCU has outscored its opponents now 28-to-9 in the first inning.

In the third, Western Carolina managed to push across three runs on three hits and took advantage of an Elon error on the first batter, Bradley Strong. Attaway put runners at the corners with his second single of the outing with White bringing home the tying run on a run-scoring single through the right side. Ridings tallied his second RBI of the game with double down the right field line with a throw behind the play to try and catch Ridings off the bag at second allowing White to scamper home for the 4-2 lead.

Strong's two-run homer an inning later made it a four-run game at 6-2 through four complete.

Elon chipped away at the Catamount advantage with a two-spot in the top of the fifth as Blaine Bower singled and later scored on a wild pitch with Alex Swim doubling down the right field line and later scoring on an infield fielding error. The Phoenix trimmed the advantage back to one in the top of the seventh without recording a hit. Swim walked to open the inning before moving around to third on a pair of wild pitches before scoring on an infield ground out.

Western Carolina got that run back, though, in the bottom of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by White scoring Attaway who reached with his third single of the ball game to provide the final tally, 7-5.

Elon starter Dylan Clark (2-2) took the loss after surrendering all seven runs - only five of which were earned - on nine hits through six and two-thirds innings of work. Clark recorded two of Elon's three strikeouts in the game. Reliever Jordan Darnell worked through the final inning and a third without allowing a run or hit.

Offensively for Elon, Swim was on base three times - scoring twice - with two hits in a 2-for-4 showing with a walk. Blaine Bower finished 2-for-3 with a walk while Joey Tomko was 2-for-4. Kinsella drove in three of Elon's runs including the two-run home run.

Saturday's game features WCU redshirt senior left-hander Morgan McKinney (1-1, 1.47 ERA) against Elon right-hander Kyle Webb (1-0, 2.51 ERA) with first pitch slated for 2:00 pm.