March 27, 2013
Boiling Springs, N.C. - Western Carolina scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning including three on a bases loaded double to left-center field by junior Aaron Attaway as the Catamounts rallied past Gardner-Webb Wednesday night in nonconference action at John Henry Moss Stadium.
The victory snapped a three-game slide for WCU as the Catamounts improved to 14-12 overall on the year. Gardner-Webb dropped to 13-11-1 overall with the loss. It was also WCU's first win over the Runnin' Bulldogs since 2010.
Trailing by a run, 2-1, entering the final frame WCU pushed across four markers to take their only lead of the contest. Senior Bryant Noteboom opened the inning with a triple to left field as defensive replacement Alex Newman over-ran the tailing line drive before slipping while trying to make an adjustment. The ball rolled to the fence with Noteboom left standing on third. Pinch runner J.D. Long scored the game-tying run on an infield single by Luke Gragg who delivered a hot-shot to the right side of the infield that GWU's Brad Collins was able to get a glove on, but did not have a throw to any base.
Tied at two, Adam Martin then doubled to left field to move runners to second and third with just one out in the ninth. Gardner-Webb played the percentages by loading the bases with an intentional walk to Bradley Strong bringing Attaway to the plate. On the eighth pitch of his at bat, the Morganton, N.C., native laced a double to left-center field driving in three for a 5-2 edge.
WCU senior closer Preston Hatcher was summoned from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth with the Atlanta, Ga., product working around a walk and a single to strike out the side to claim his sixth save of the season.
Attaway led the Catamounts with three RBI while Gragg drove in two including the game-tying run in the ninth and WCU's first marker in the seventh on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to center. Austin Neary was the only Catamount with multiple hits, finishing 2-for-4 with a double while another hometown product, Julian Ridings, walked twice and stole his fourth base of the season.
Combined, four of WCU's eight hits went for extra bases in the win with three doubles and a triple.
Junior south paw Hunter Brister (3-0) scored the victory out of the bullpen for WCU, striking out three in two innings of relief work. The Pleasant Grove, Ala., native only allowed one hit in earning his third victory of the year in his 11th overall appearance.
Catamount starter Adam Curtis struck out five through six innings surrendering two runs on five hits, factoring in the no-decision. Freshman Jonathan Waszak walked one with another runner reaching on a throwing error before Brister came on to shut the door in the seventh inning.
Hatcher moved into sole possession of sixth place in WCU's record book with his 16th career save.
Gardner-Webb opened scoring in the third inning as Ryan Hodge led off with a single through the right side before being sacrificed to second base. A two-out triple to left field by J.J. Nazzaro plated the game's first run as the Runnin' Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead through three complete.
In the fifth, Hodge again reached to lead-off the inning as he was hit by a full-count pitch. A one-out bunt single by Scott Johnson put runners at first and second before Hodge swiped third base to move the home squad's runners to the corners with two out. Hodge then charged home on a hit-and-run situation with Henry Rundio who delivered an RBI single to right field to hand Gardner-Webb a 2-0 lead after the fifth inning.
Western Carolina finally got on the board in the seventh as Tyler White, who was playing just minutes away from his home town of Forest City, N.C., reached on an infield fielding error. Neary doubled to left to put runners at second and third ahead of Gragg who lifted a pinch hit fly ball to center allowing White to race home to cut the margin in half, 2-1, setting up WCU's ninth-inning heroics.
The Catamounts threatened to tie the game in the eighth as Attaway drew a lead-off walk, stretching his consecutive streak of reaching safely to 16-straight games. He promptly stole second base before moving to third on a right-side ground out by Cody Jones. Ridings then hit one to the right side with Attaway charging home, but was thrown out by Collins at the plate to preserve GWU's one-run edge entering the ninth.
Tossing eight pitchers by design on the night, Gardner-Webb reliever Jeff Howell (1-2) took the loss after allowing four runs on five hits in the ninth. Howell walked and struck out one in an inning and a third. All told, the Runnin' Bulldog pitchers struck out six batters in the loss.
Johnson finished 2-for-4 to lead six players for Gardner-Webb with hits with Nazzaro and Rundio driving in their two runs.
Western Carolina returns home for a three-game Southern Conference series against The Citadel at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 5:00 pm with Saturday slated for a 2:00 pm start and 1:00 pm game time on Sunday. Fans can follow Friday's series opener on 540 AM WRGC in Sylva or online at www.WRGC.com.