April 7, 2013
Greenville, S.C. - Western Carolina used a four-run top of the ninth inning to rally past the Furman Paladins, 8-5, on Saturday afternoon at Latham Park, knotting the three-game Southern Conference series at one game apiece. The two will decided the league series with game three on Sunday afternoon with first pitch at 1 pm.
Entering the ninth tied at four after Furman erased WCU's early four-run lead, senior Tyler White drove in two runs with a first-pitch double to right center field, plating Aaron Attaway and Cody Jones to push the Catamounts back in front, 6-4. With White aboard, Dykota Spiess added to the WCU cushion with a towering two-run home run over the fence in right field, stretching the Catamounts' advantage back to four runs, 8-4.
Furman didn't go away quietly, though, in the final half of the ninth inning. Two base hits that didn't leave the infield - a slow rolling single to short by Chris Ohmstede and a dribbler to the right side that alluded two WCU defenders - ultimately put runners at second and third with no outs for the Paladins. Catamount closer Preston Hatcher, who came on with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth to get a double-play to end the threat, was again able to pitch his way out of the jam.
A foul out down the right field line by Heath Burton was the first out before a run-scoring ground out to short by Jake Jones trimmed the lead to three, 8-5. A two-out walk to Jordan Simpson brought the game-tying run to the plate in the form of Will Muzika, but Hatcher was able to get him looking on a back-door breaking ball to end the game, securing the win for WCU.
Hatcher (3-2) tossed the final inning and two thirds, surrendering one run on two hits while pitching around two walks with the game-ending strikeout.
WCU redshirt senior starter Morgan McKinney battled for this squad, allowing three runs on six hits in five innings. The Gainesville, Fla., native worked around six walks with a pair of strikeouts, leaving the game with a 4-3 advantage. Freshman Jonathan Waszak and senior Hunter Brister both tossed two thirds of an inning before Tyler Powell came on in the seventh inning, striking out three for one inning of work to set-up Hatcher.
Seniors White and Bryant Noteboom led four Catamounts with multiple-hit games, both finishing 3-for-5 with White collecting his 13th double of the season to give him 50 in his career, tied for 14th in the school record books with Todd Roper (2001-04). Spiess doubled and homered as a part of his 2-for-4, three RBI outing with Luke Gragg also registering two hits.
The Catamounts jumped out to a 3-0 lead as Spiess doubled down the right field line to score Jacob Hoyle who led off with a walk. The two-bagger by Spiess was the first of four-straight WCU base hits with Luke Gragg plating a run with a RBI single up the middle. Attaway drove in the third run of the frame with sacrifice fly to left field.
Hoyle stretched WCU's advantage to four with an opposite field solo home run to left in the third inning.
After WCU owned the first third of the game, Furman took over in the middle three innings, plating four runs between the fourth through sixth frames. A bases loaded walk by Griffin Davis in the fourth put Furman on the board with a sacrifice fly by Muzika plating the second run.
In the fifth, Taylor Johnson singled to begin the frame and was later scored on a Davis single to pull the Paladins back within one. Then, in the sixth, a two-out, two-base throwing error for WCU allowed Hunter Burton to reach third where he was brought home on a single up the middle by Johnson to tie the game.
The Paladins threatened in the home half of the eighth inning. A one-out walk to Muzika was backed up by a double to right center by Burton to put runners at second and third. WCU went to its closer, Hatcher, in place of Powell who intentionally walked Johnson to load the bases. Hatcher then got Paul Nitto to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play that squelched the home squad's rally, setting up the fireworks in the ninth.
Furman reliever Ben Carlson (3-2) took the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in three and two thirds innings out of the bullpen. Carlson struck out four with one walk, but surrendered the two big hits in the ninth inning before Ryan Dittmar closed out the frame. WCU chased Furman starter Tyler Wood after two and a third with reliever Ryan Morse striking out three in two and two thirds innings.
Five Paladins recorded two-hit games including a 2-for-3 showing by Johnson with Burton and Abrams finishing 2-for-4, both with a double.
Sunday's rubber match in the three-game SoCon series is scheduled for 1:00 pm at Latham Stadium on Furman's campus. Fans can follow all of the action with live streaming audio from the Catamount Sports Network online at CatamountSports.com.