Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina scored six runs over the final three innings to overcome a six-run, deficit, tying the game to force extra innings on Friday evening. However, Furman used two doubles in the top of the 10th inning to drive in the eventual game-winning run to claim the Southern Conference series with an 8-7 victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Trailing 7-1 after a weather delay that lasted just over an hour, Western Carolina (16-17, 7-4 SoCon) found new offensive life in the home half of the seventh inning. Singles by Caleb Robinson and pinch hitter Justin Sparks put two aboard for Cameron Blaquiere who blasted his team-high tying fifth home run of the season to make it a three-run deficit, 7-4.
After a scoreless eighth, the Catamounts were down to their final two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. With Blaquiere aboard, pinch hitter Matthew Koehler singled up the middle to put two men on and flip the lineup back to the top of the order. Brett Pope delivered a run-scoring single through the right side to make it a two-run deficit. Then, with two outs, seniors Bryson Bowman and Matt Smith both drove in runs that tied the game at seven.
In the top of the 10th inning, doubles by Brandon Elmy and Sky Overton sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt plated the go-ahead run as Elmy crossed the dish to make it 8-7 in favor of the Paladins. Two strong plays by substitute third baseman Dillon Love retired two of the three outs in the bottom of the frame with a fly ball out to shallow right center ending the game.
Seven different Catamount hitters collected multi-hit games in Friday's loss, paced by Matt Smith who finished 3-for-5 with a double and two more RBI giving the Fredericktown, Ohio native five in the first two games of the series. Smith has reached base safely in 15-straight games, hitting in four-consecutive. Blaquiere drove in a team-best three in his 2-for-5 showing, while Caleb Robinson also posted a 2-for-5 showing offensively amidst his eight-game hit streak.
Redshirt senior Bryson Bowman extended both his reached base safely and hitting streaks to 33 and 18, respectively, with a 2-for-5 offensive showing, while classmate Nobu Suzuki stretched his reached base safely streak to 17 games including a 12-game hitting streak. The Tokyo, Japan, native doubled twice on Friday.
Also for WCU, Brett Pope extended his hitting streak to eight-straight games, tallying two-or-more hits in each of those eight games. Sparks delivered two hits and a run scored in his only two trips off the bench to round out the multi-hit games.
Both teams plated runs in the first inning with Furman grabbing a 3-1 lead in the second on the first of two sacrifice flies by Jabari Richards and a run-scoring single by Carter Grote. The lead stood until a four-run top of the sixth inning that included Grote's two-run home run and doubles by Sims Griffith and a run-scoring, two-base hit by Bret Huebner. The latter was at the plate in the seventh inning when the weather-delay hit for lightning in the area.
Senior reliever B.J. Nobles (3-1) suffered the loss for WCU, allowing just one run on six hits with four strikeouts against two walks. The lone marker allowed was the first run Nobles had surrendered since returning to the bullpen, making nine appearances and tossing 15.2 scoreless innings prior.
Starter Tristan Baker struck out two against a pair of walks, allowing seven runs on 11 total hits over 5.2 innings of work. Relievers Jacob Breakfield and Dylan Biumi both tossed a third of an inning, both allowing one hit apiece before Nobles took over after the delay.
After scoring the save in Thursday's win, infielder turned reliever Jake Crawford (1-2) scored his first victory of the season, allowing just one hit over the final inning and a third of scoreless relief. Starter Grant Schuermann scattered 11 hits over six and two-thirds innings, striking out seven while allowing four runs. It was after the weather delay that WCU was finally able tack on additional markers following its first-inning run. Heath Hawkins was tagged for three runs on four hits, striking out three in two innings.
For Furman (13-20, 3-8 SoCon) offensively, four players collected three hits in the win. Grote plated three runs on a 3-for-6 showing, finishing a double shy of the cycle including his two-run home run in the four-run sixth. He was joined by Brandon Elmy (3-for-6), Sky Overton (3-for-6) and Sims Griffith (3-for-5), while Cameron Whitehead and Jake Crawford tallied two hits apiece, all but Crawford tallying a double.
The series finale is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Saturday afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.