March 24, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Elon made a one-out walk to Joey Tomko count in the top of the ninth with three-consecutive, two-out singles including one up the middle by Sebastian Gomez as the Phoenix outdueled Western Carolina, 2-1, to take Sunday's Southern Conference series rubber match on a blustery afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
WCU starting pitcher Jordan Smith (1-3) and Elon's Spencer Medick (3-1) both worked into the ninth inning for their respective clubs, and both gave their squads ample chances to pick up the victory in the finale and to take the key SoCon series.
Smith struck out five through eight and two-thirds innings, the longest outing by any Catamount pitcher this spring. He added five fielding assists at the center of the diamond. The Liberty, N.C., product limited the Phoenix to just five hits, but was tagged for both runs in the losing effort. Smith issued a five-pitch walk to Tomko with one out in the top of the ninth inning which proved to be the winning marker.
On the other side, Medick fanned eight against two walks through eight and a third innings, scattering WCU's eight base hits before allowing one unearned run. He had to work around numerous jams on the afternoon, stranding 11 base runners including leaving Catamounts in scoring position at either second or third in five innings.
Nate Young recorded the final two outs in the ninth to score his sixth save of the year, pitching around a single and walk.
Elon (14-9, 7-5 SoCon) broke the scoreless deadlock in the top half of the sixth inning as Gomez doubled down the right field line before Alex Swim delivered a two-out RBI with a single to center.
An inning later, WCU rallied to pull even at a run apiece as Catamount freshman catcher Danny Bermudez tied the game with a clutch RBI single down the left field line for WCU in the bottom of the seventh inning. Luke Gragg reached on a one-out pinch hit single to left field ahead of Bradley Strong who reached on a fielder's choice as Elon second baseman Will Leathers lost the ball on the exchange trying to throw Gragg out at second. Bermudez then poked the seventh pitch of his at bat down the left field line to score the tying marker.
However, with runners at the corners Medick settled to strikeout the next two hitters to end the Catamount threat and keep the game tied.
In the top of the ninth inning, Smith got Ryan Kinsella to fly out to center before Tomko drew a one-out walk. Smith then fanned Leathers for the second out, but a single by Chris King put two runners aboard and effectively chased the Catamount hurler. Gomez then singled off WCU closer Preston Hatcher to drive home the game-winning marker in the form of Tomko.
Hatcher surrendered two hits while recording a strikeout in a third of an inning out of the bullpen.
Down to their final three outs in the ninth inning, Dykota Spiess drew a pinch-hit, one-out walk ahead of Cody Jones who singled on the seventh pitch of his at bat, fighting off a 0-2 count to put two aboard with two outs. Yet, the Catamounts were unable to tally the tying or winning run as Young got WCU RBI-leader, Tyler White, to bounce out to second to end the game.
Austin Neary finished 2-for-3 with a double and a sacrifice bunt to lead the Catamounts at the plate with Jones also collecting two hits in a 2-for-4 showing. King and Gomez both finished 2-for-4 to lead Elon at the dish.
Western Carolina (13-11, 5-4 SoCon) hits the road for back-to-back road games before returning home next weekend in league play. The Catamounts visit ACC foe Wake Forest on Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm before facing Gardner-Webb on Wednesday with a 6:00 pm first pitch in mid-week action. Both games will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard online at CatamountSports.com with Wednesday's game also available on 540 AM WRGC and WRGC.com.