April 11, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Bradley Strong collected four hits and drove in two runs offensively as Western Carolina rode the eight strikeout performance by starter Jeremy Null to take its Southern Conference series opener Friday night, fending off the Furman Paladins, 5-4, at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Game two of the series is scheduled for Saturday afternoon with a special start time of 4:00 pm after the WCU football Spring Game, presented by Wells Fargo. Fans can follow the game with live GameTracker (free) and live streaming video through Catamount All-Access (subscription) available online through CatamountSports.com.
Live audio (free) is available through the Furman broadcast with Dan Scott on the call through FurmanPaladins.com and via local transmitter at 105.9 FM.
Western Carolina (23-9, 9-1 SoCon) won its 12th-straight game to extend the nation's longest active winning streak, while Furman (11-23, 2-8 SoCon) suffered its seventh-consecutive loss - and its eighth, one-run defeat this season.
Null (5-1) allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings, countering three walks with the eight strikeouts against the Paladin hitters. Junior Tyler Powell secured his seventh save of the season, tossing the final inning and a third of hitless, scoreless baseball and worked around a pair of walks.
Strong finished 4-for-5 with three singles and a solo home run to pace the Catamounts. Junior Jacob Hoyle extended his current hitting streak to 12-straight games with a 1-for-3 performance while also drawing a pair of walks. Senior Cody Jones saw his 14-game hit streak come to an end, finishing 0-for-5 on the night, but did drive in a run in the win.
Furman played long ball in the series opener, hitting three solo home runs in the loss. The Paladins got on the board first in the top of the fourth inning as Chris Ohmstede led off with a solo homer - his first of two round-trippers on the day. The Catamounts answered in the home portion of the frame as Taylor Sandefur, behind in the count, grounded out to short to plate Dykota Spiess to make it 1-1 through four.
In the home half of the fifth, WCU took a lead it would never relinquish as Strong drove a 1-2 pitch over the fence in right field for his third home run of the season, making it 2-1 in favor of the home squad.
The Catamounts tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Jones drove home a run on a ground out to second, bringing freshman Dylan Prevatte home to stretch the advantage to two, 3-1. Senior Adam Martin, who drew a game-high three walks, bounced a single through the left side to drive home Strong for the 4-1 Catamount lead on his team-leading 42nd RBI.
Hunter Burton tallied an RBI in the top of the seventh for Furman on a sacrifice fly that scored Andrew MacLatchie to make it 4-2. Yet the Catamounts got the marker back in the home portion after the stretch. Aaron Attaway, who pinch ran for pinch hitter Dale Urquhart, Jr., after he was plunked by a pitch, scampered home on the RBI single by Strong to make it 5-2.
Furman closed the gap to within one on back-to-back home runs coming on consecutive pitches in the top of the eighth inning. Greg Harrison hit the first homer with Ohmstede following with his second of the day to make it a one-run ball game.
WCU reliever Bryan Sammons was summoned from the bullpen and recorded the first two outs of the inning on a ground out and strikeout before Powell came on with a runner at second base. A wild pitch that skipped to the backstop moved the tying run to third base. WCU then intentionally walked MacLatchie after falling behind in the count. The right-hander, Powell, was able to slam the door, though, tipping a chopper up the middle where Strong fielded and gunned out Carter Grote at first to retire the side.
In the ninth, the Paladins again threatened as the lead-off man, Hunter Burton, drew a five-pitch walk to represent the tying run. However, Martin, who moved from right field to behind the plate at the start of the final frame, threw him out trying to steal second for the first out. Defensive substitution Reece Strong hauled in a ball popped into foul ground down the third base line with Powell getting Harrison to ground out to third, but needing a swiping tag by Hoyle at first to end the game.
Ohmstede and right fielder Jake Jones both finished with two hits for Furman. Matt Solter (0-4) struck out six in five and a third innings for Furman, limiting the potent Catamount offense to three runs on four hits but issuing six walks.
Western Carolina won despite stranding 12 base runners on the day. The Catamounts left two-or-more on base in five of the eight innings in which it took swings including stranding the bases loaded twice.
Game two is scheduled for 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.