March 27, 2010
Cullowhee, N.C. - On the strength of singles in their final at bats, Western Carolina swept both ends of Saturday's Southern Conference twin bill against the College of Charleston to garner the program's first, three-game series win over the Cougars since 2002.
Trailing by a run entering the final frame, sophomore Ross Heffley sharply singled up the middle with two outs to drive in two runs as the Catamounts opened the day with a 4-3 victory in game one. In the night cap, Charleston's Matt Leeds homered in the top of the ninth to tie the game at nine to force extra innings. Then, in the home half of the 13th with runners at the corners, senior Tyler Kirkpatrick laced a ground ball down the third base line to drive in Matt Johns for the second walk-off victory of the day.
Johns finished 4-for-8 with three walks, scoring six runs and driving in two to pace the Catamounts offensively in the two games. The Stafford, Va., native also stole four bases in the two wins. Dylan de Graaf hit 3-for-4 in the first game with a pair of stolen bases to lead WCU. Heffley was 1-for-4 in game one with his only tally coming in the ninth, while Kirkpatrick was hitless in the opener before driving in three runs on a 2-for-6 showing in game two.
The bottom four in the WCU order each has multi-hit games for the Catamounts in the night cap.
Relief pitchers earned the victories for the Catamounts in both games. Junior Brandon Johnson (3-0) came on with two outs in the eighth and worked a perfect inning and a third with two strikeouts to remain perfect on the season with his third win. After five and two thirds solid innings of relief work by sophomore Kyle Stewart - including a career-high 10 strikeouts - closer Daniel Ottone tossed the final two innings of perfect relief, fanning two to earn his first win of the season.
Matt Benedict tossed five solid innings in the start in game one, scattering seven base hits and three runs while striking out five against two walks. Freshman Mat Batts only allowed two base hits with one strikeout in 2.2 innings of relief before Johnson took over. Vance Chavis also lasted five innings in his start in game two, surrendering five runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Andrew Chilcoat faced three batters in a third of an inning before giving way to the tandem of Stewart and Ottone in the extra inning affair.
Western Carolina (15-7-1, 3-5-1 SoCon) took an early lead in game one on Saturday afternoon as Johns singled and then matriculated to third on a failed pickoff attempt at first and then stealing third. He scampered home on a wild pitch to put the Catamounts ahead, 1-0, through three.
However, the Cougars answered with two runs in the top of the fifth capitalizing on consecutive one-out doubles and a RBI single to surge in front, 2-1, and then plated a third run an inning later on an RBI ground out to lead, 3-1.
The Catamounts responded in the home half of the sixth as Radley Haddad singled through the left side to score Cameron Dullnig, who had opened the frame with a walk to trim the deficit to one, 3-2, setting up the ninth inning heroics.
Freshman Tyler White delivered a one-out single up the middle and was lifted at first base by Trevor Collias as a pinch runner. The speedy Collias swiped second before back-to-back walks to Johns and Austin Schultz loaded the bases. With two outs, Heffley smacked a 0-2 pitch up the middle to score Collias and Johns to win the game.
Saturday's second game opened with the Cougars jumping out to a 3-2 lead through two and a half innings before Western Carolina used a five-run third to surge to the lead.
Catcher Ollie Goulder opened the scoring with a lead-off walk and was plated by an RBI single by Johns up the middle. White then tripled to center field where the Cougars' Cole Rakar laid out in an attempt to rob the extra base hit from the WCU rookie, but missed and the ball rolled to the fence. Kirkpatrick drove in White and was plated by the next batter as Collias singled. Dullnig capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to left.
All told, WCU scored five runs on four hits with one CofC error during the frame to lead, 7-3.
The College of Charleston (19-7, 5-4 SoCon) answered, though, with a four-spot of its own in the top of the sixth inning to knot the game at 7. Jose Rodriguez hit an RBI double to left to score catcher Rob Kral, who walked, to chase Catamount starter, Chavis. With runners at the corners, Jamie Holler doubled down the left field line to drive in a second run, with Rakar singling in two to cap scoring and tie game.
Western appeared to have the game nearly handed to them by the Cougar pitching staff in the home half of the eighth. Goulder drew a one-out walk before moving to second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball. With Johns at the plate, Goulder notched the go-ahead run by racing home on another wild pitch to give the Catamounts an 8-7 lead. Johns added insurance with a solo home run to straight away center field during that same at bat for a 9-7 lead entering the ninth.
Yet, after a lead-off single by preseason SoCon Player of the Year, Joey Bergman, Leeds blasted a home run to right to tie the game at nine and force extra innings.
In the tenth inning, capitalizing on a hit batter and a fielding error, WCU sacrifice bunted runners into scoring position with just one out. An intentional walk to de Graaf loaded the bases, but the Catamounts could not get a run home.
It wasn't until the home portion of the 13th that either side threatened again. Johns opened the inning with a walk on five pitches before stealing second for his third theft of the game. White singled through the left side to put runners at the corners ahead of Kirkpatrick who drove the first pitch he saw past Cougar third baseman Jesse Mesa for the win.
During extra innings, WCU pitching retired 12 of the 13 batters it faced with a walk, a fielder's choice and five strikeouts between Stewart and Ottone.
Charleston's Heath Hembree (4-1) suffered the loss in game one after starter Kevin Decker worked eight solid innings, scattering eight hits with just two runs allowed and seven strikeouts. Hembree worked the final two thirds of an inning allowing the game-tying and game-winning runs off two hits with a pair of walks and two strikeouts. Reliever Josh Salay was saddled with the extra inning defeat in the second game after allowing one run on just two hits with three strikeouts against a walk in two innings of work.
Amidst a stretch where 10 of 11 games will be played inside the friendly confines of Childress Field / Hennon Stadium, Western Carolina continues its home stand on Wednesday, March 21, by hosting the High Point Panthers in nonconference action in Cullowhee. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 pm.