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Smith, Hatcher Combine to Blank Paladins on Friday, 3-0

Cody Jones delivered a two-RBI double in the second inning to give Western Carolina a lead it would never relinquish on Friday night against Furman. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

April 13, 2012

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Cullowhee, N.C. - Sophomore Jordan Smith tossed seven shutout innings while scattering seven base hits as Western Carolina claimed game one of its Southern Conference series with Furman on Friday evening, blanking the Paladins, 3-0, at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

Game two of the three-game set is scheduled for a 4:00 pm first pitch on Saturday afternoon. Saturday's game is the "Think Pink" game in Cullowhee; the Catamounts will take batting practice in special "Whee Think Pink" T-shirts that will also be on-sale at the ballpark with a portion of the proceeds going to help fund breast cancer research.

Smith (3-4) struck out six against three walks to pick up his first win in his last four starts for the Catamounts. He held Furman without any extra base hits and did not allow a Paladin runner past second base in the win. Closer Preston Hatcher tossed the final two frames of one-hit, shutout relief to score his seventh save of the season. Hatcher fanned four of the seven batters he faced including all three outs in the one-hit ninth.

Sophomore Cody Jones belted a two-RBI double down the left field line in the second inning to stake the Catamounts to a 2-0 advantage as a part of a 2-for-4 showing at the plate to lead the Catamounts. Freshman Bradley Strong drove home an insurance run in the sixth inning as WCU matched its win total from the 2011 season, improving to 23-11 overall, 8-5 in league play.

Furman starter Bobby Lyne (5-3) took the loss after allowing all three runs on eight hits including three extra base knocks. Lyne struck out five with two walks and a hit batsman. Alex Abrams, who finished 2-for-4 at the plate as the Paladin designated hitter, finished the final inning on the mound with hitless, scoreless relief for Furman.

Abrams as well as leftfielder Will Owens posted multi-hit games for Furman as Owens was a game-high, 3-for-4, at the plate but was stranded on base twice.

Western Carolina got on the board first with a two-out rally in the home half of the second inning. Julian Ridings doubled to left field to extend the inning following the second out with Aaron Attaway drawing a five-pitch walk to put two on with two gone. Jones, a left-handed batter, then went the opposite way with a double down the left field line on the first pitch of his at bat to score two as the runners took off at the crack of the bat.

In the sixth inning, Tyler White legged out a double to right center on the first pitch of his at bat to lead-off the frame for his lone hit of the evening, and was moved to third on a single up the middle by Dykota Spiess. Two batters later, Strong pulled a single through the right side to plate White, but Spiess was gunned out at third for the second out. Ridings then grounded to second to end the Catamount threat.

Leading 3-0 heading into the top of the seventh inning, Smith - a Liberty, N.C., native - surrendered back-to-back singles to put the first two runners aboard when Hatcher was summoned from the bullpen. The right-hander from Atlanta, Ga., struck out the first batter he faced before getting a fly ball out to left field and ground out on a fantastic play by Strong charging the middle of the diamond to end the Paladin threat.

Hatcher pitched around a single up the middle with three strikeouts in the ninth to earn the save.

Both teams finished with eight hits apiece with the Paladins stranding nine and WCU leaving eight on base in the series opener.

Game two gets underway at 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. WCU is expected to start junior left-hander Morgan McKinney (4-1, 2.81 ERA) while Furman counters with a junior leftie of its own in Nate Smith (2-3, 5.60 ERA).