April 7, 2010
Knoxville, Tenn. - Western Carolina scored five runs in both the top of the first and third innings, and pounded out 14 hits in downing the Tennessee Volunteers, 14-9, Wednesday night in nonconference action at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Behind a solid performance by walk-on freshman right-hander Jeremy Sluder, seven Catamount pitchers combined in the winning effort, striking out 12 in helping WCU earn just its second win over Tennessee on the diamond in the last 11 meetings. It was also the second-time WCU has won in three meetings against former skipper, Todd Raleigh.
All told offensively, six Catamount hitters posted multiple-hit games and four tallied multi-RBI performances in the mid-week win, WCU's seventh over a top 100 RPI team this season. The Cats blasted four home runs, legged out three doubles and a triple, while also stealing eight bases, including three by senior Dylan de Graaf to compliment his 2-for-5 performance at the plate which featured a two-RBI triple.
Matt Benedict (3-0) picked up the victory after working two innings of one-run, one-hit relief of starter, freshman Taylor Sandefur, as the Catamounts went deep into their staff by design. Benedict struck out two as seven WCU hurlers combined to fan a dozen Vol hitters. Sluder was the most efficient pitcher on either side, working three innings and allowing just one unearned run on two hits with a walk and a career-high four strikeouts.
"I'm very proud of the team effort and our aggressive approach tonight," said head coach Bobby Moranda who guided WCU to its second win over the Vols since 2008. "We executed our system - especially offensively - in picking up this key road, nonconference win. Jeremy Sluder was the key to our game. He came in and did a great job and really competed on the mound. For me, he was the star among many solid performances tonight."
Senior Tyler Kirkpatrick finished 2-for-3 for the Catamounts including hammering the first of four Catamount home runs with a two-run shot for his two RBI while adding a double. Sophomore Ross Heffley also lifted a two-run homer over the fence in left field, driving in a team-best three runs as a part of his 2-for-3 showing at the dish.
Nine batters came to the plate in the opening inning for Western Carolina (19-8-1) as the Catamounts pushed across five runs for the early, 5-0 lead. The frame was highlighted by three extra base hits including RBI doubles by Heffley and Tyler White, who finished 2-for-5, as well as de Graaf's two RBI triple.
The Vols answered in the home half of the first with a three-spot to trim the margin to two, 5-3.
In the third, Cameron Dullnig singled up the middle for his second base hit of the night, advancing to third on a pair of wild pitches before trotting home on Kirkpatrick's towering home run to left center field. Consecutive hit batsmen in Austin Schultz and Trevor Collias put two aboard with a double-steal moving the runners to second and third when Matt Johns drove in a run on an infield ground out. With Collias on third, Heffley homered to left to cap the scoring with WCU ahead, 10-3.
Tennessee (15-15) would close to within three runs in the fifth by pushing across three runs to trim the Catamount lead to 10-7. Blake Forsythe drilled a two RBI triple down the right field line to score the first two runs, with him scoring on an RBI ground out.
However, a one-out solo home run by catcher Ollie Goulder in the top of the seventh and a two-run homer by Collias in the top of the ninth helped the Catamounts keep Tennessee at bay.
UT's P.J. Polk opened the home half of the eighth with a full count home run to again trim the deficit to three ahead of Collias' round-tripper in the ninth. Following Polk's shot, Brandon Johnson struck out the side with closer Daniel Ottone fanning two amidst the three final outs of the game for a combined five of the final six outs recorded on K's.
For the Volunteers, starter Aaron Tullo (1-1) suffered the loss after being chased in the first inning, officially allowing four earned runs on four hits in only two-thirds of an inning pitched. Josh Liles posted a 3-for-5 showing to lead Tennessee at the plate while Blake Forsythe drove in four runs on a 2-for-5 night with a double and a triple in the losing effort.
Western Carolina returns home this weekend to wrap-up a stretch where 10-of-11 games have been played inside the friendly confines of Childress Field / Hennon Stadium by hosting the Wofford College Terriers for a three-game Southern Conference series. First pitch Friday is 6:00 pm, with Saturday's game at 3:00 pm and Sunday's finale at 2:00 pm.
It is WCU Faculty / Staff Appreciation Weekend, presented by Vantage Pointe Homes (www.vantagepointehomes.com) with all faculty and staff members, as well as their families gaining free admission all weekend by presenting a valid University ID.
Prior to Saturday afternoon's game, Bethany Bradsher and Lynn LeClair, the widow of former WCU player and coach the late Keith LeClair, will be on hand selling and signing copies of the new book, "Coaching Third: the Keith LeClair Story" which documents the baseball life and battle with ALS - otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Bradsher and LeClair will be at the stadium beginning at 2:00 pm.
Read more about Saturday's pre-game activities: Western Carolina Baseball to Host Book Signing on Saturday