April 12, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - After Samford erased a five-run deficit in dramatic fashion in the top of the ninth inning with two, two-run home runs and a solo shot that knotted the game at eight, Western Carolina rallied in the home half of the frame to take Friday's Southern Conference opener from the Bulldogs, 9-8, at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Junior Aaron Attaway capped the wild ninth inning for the Catamounts by dropping a two-out, 2-0 offering into centerfield with the winning hit falling just in front of a diving Jared Watson. The hit allowed Attaway's classmate Luke Gragg to scamper home from third base with the winning tally, halting WCU's five-game losing skid to Samford which dated back to 2011.
The Catamounts became the third SoCon team to reach 20 victories on the season, improving to 20-16 overall and 10-6 in conference play.
For Attaway, the walk-off hit was his second of the season, both coming against Bulldogs. The Morganton, N.C., native also delivered a walk-off base knock in game one of a Saturday doubleheader against The Citadel back on March 30, winning the game and clinching the SoCon series victory.
Finishing 2-for-5, Attaway was among four Catamounts with multiple-hit games with junior Julian Ridings pacing the squad by going 3-for-3, just a triple shy of the cycle. The Shelby, N.C., native belted a solo homer in the fifth inning, adding a single and a double, scoring twice while driving in a pair. Senior Tyler White matched Ridings with three hits, finishing 3-for-5 with a team-high three RBI while Jacob Hoyle collected two hits with a RBI.
Catamount starter Jeremy Null settled after early issues with free passes, surrendering two runs in the first inning without allowing a Bulldog base hit. The hard-throwing right-hander recovered to toss six and two thirds, countering five walks with five strikeouts while holding the Bulldogs to three runs on seven hits in factoring in the no-decision.
Freshman reliever Jonathan Waszak came on in the seventh inning with the bases loaded, but slammed the door on the `Dogs by getting Christiaan Durdaller to fly out to right field. Waszak threw an inning and two thirds before surrendering the first two-run homer in the ninth, issuing a walk with two strikeouts overall.
Senior Preston Hatcher (5-2) picked up the victory out of the bullpen, tossing the final two-thirds of an inning, ending the visitor's half of the ninth with a strikeout while allowing three runs on three hits.
Samford (19-16, 8-8 SoCon) trailed 8-3 entering the ninth inning before Zeth Stone lead off with a sharp single up the middle. Waszak got Tommy Corbin to ground out to Bradley Strong at second base for the first out before designated hitter C.K. Irby hit a two-run home run to right center field, trimming the deficit to three, 8-5, and sending WCU back to its bullpen.
In a match-up of SoCon preseason All-America selections, Samford's Phillip Ervin tripled off the left field wall off of WCU's Hatcher ahead of Durdaller who homered to left to make it a one-run game, 8-7. Caleb Bryson then drove a 2-2 offering over the fence in left to tie the game in dramatic fashion with Hatcher retiring Watson on a ground out and fanning McWhorter to end the inning.
In WCU's half of the frame, Dykota Spiess led off with a five-pitch walk, chasing reliever Patrick McGavin (0-4) who eventually took the loss. Cody Jones successfully sacrificed Spiess into scoring position with a bunt before Gragg beat out an infield single to short, putting runners at first and second with one out. Strong then laced a single to right field with Spiess held at third to load the bases. Following a fielder's choice that tallied the second out of the inning at home plate, Attaway drove home Gragg from third on his flare to center field to plate the game-winning run.
McGavin tossed two thirds of an inning as the second reliever out of the bullpen for Samford. He was tagged for the one run without allowing a hit, but walking two against one strikeout. With the late inning rally, Bulldog starter Alex Milazzo remained perfect on the season, factoring in the no-decision after surrendering seven runs on seven hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Reliever Andres Gracia pitched two thirds of an inning, surrendering three hits including the one to Attaway.
Samford jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, capitalizing on two walks and a hit batter to load the bases before Ervin drove home a run on a ground out and Durdaller plated a run on a sacrifice fly. The lead was short-lived, though, as WCU used back-to-back hits by Attaway and Ridings to put runners at second and third where White drove home his first of three runs on a ground out. Hoyle then singled to right field to tie the game at two through one complete.
Consecutive walks to open the second sparked a three-run rally by Western Carolina with Ridings plating a run on a bases loaded sacrifice fly. White then pushed across two more runs with a single to left center field making it 5-2 in favor of the home squad.
Ridings secured his second RBI of the game with a one-out solo home run to right center in the fifth with Gragg drawing a bases loaded walk to plate the seventh run for the Catamounts, 7-2.
Ervin, who finished 2-for-4 with two extra base hits in the loss, hit a solo homer in the sixth inning to pull the Bulldogs back to within four, 7-3, before Austin Neary came through with a pinch hit double to left center in the eighth. The Baltimore, Md., product worked his way to third on an infield ground out before racing home on a wild pitch to give WCU back the five-run cushion, 8-3, setting up the ninth inning.
Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm. WCU redshirt senior Morgan McKinney (LHP, 1-2, 4.31 ERA) facing off against Samford's C.K. Irby (RHP, 5-2, 3.71 ERA). Fans can follow all of the action online at CatamountSports.com with live streaming video (subscription) through Catamount All-Access or with live GameTracker (free). Live audio from the Samford Sports Network can be heard online as well.