April 16, 2014
Rock Hill, S.C. - Western Carolina pushed across three runs in the top half of the 13th inning including the game-winning run on a squeeze play to outlast the Winthrop Eagles, 9-6, Tuesday night in midweek nonconference action at the Winthrop Ballpark.
With the win, the Catamounts swept both ends of the home-and-home series this year with Winthrop, taking the first meeting 8-0 in Cullowhee back on February 18. Western Carolina improved to 24-11 overall, snapping a two-game losing skid.
Reaching on a lead-off single through the left side to open the decisive frame, sophomore Danny Bermudez moved into scoring position at second base on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Smith. Bermudez then stole third ahead of a one-out walk by Taylor Sandefur to put runners at the corners for Aaron Attaway. With Bermudez steaming towards home on the 1-1 pitch, Attaway laid down the perfect bunt allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Attaway, credited with the sacrifice bunt, reached on a throwing error with Sandefur advancing to third on the play before eventually scoring the first insurance run on a wild pitch. After having made the play with his bat, Attaway then did the job with his feet. The Morganton, N.C., native stole both second and third before J.D. Long drove a single through the right side to score the final run of the game.
Senior T.J. Fussell, who threw the final four and a third innings in relief, struck out the side in the bottom of the 13th inning to secure the win and even his seasonal record at 2-2. All told, Fussell, an Asheville, N.C., product, was nearly perfect out of the bullpen, limiting the Eagles to just one hit while striking out seven.
Junior Bradley Strong led all hitters with a 4-for-7 outing on Tuesday, finishing with two singles and a pair of doubles. Sandefur had three singles in a 3-for-5 performance, driving in a career-high tying two runs. Seniors Adam Martin and Luke Gragg both tallied two hits apiece while Bermudez finished 2-for-6 with two runs scored, stretching his streak of reaching base safely to 20-straight games.
With a third-inning RBI single through the right side, junior Jacob Hoyle extended his current hitting streak to a career-long 15-games.
Trailing by as many as four runs, 6-2, Winthrop chipped away at the Catamount advantage. The Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth inning with Babe Thomas scoring on a passed ball to make it 6-3. In the eighth, Winthrop got an RBI ground out by Brad Kaczka before Luke Maldonado lifted a pinch hit RBI single to center field to make it a one-run game, 6-5.
Winthrop (18-22) then mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game, ultimately forcing extra innings. John Menken started the rally with a single through the right side before Chad Smith moved him to third with a base hit. On a 3-1 pitch, Kaczka singled up the middle to allow the game-tying run to score and put runners at second and third. However, Fussell struck out Maldonado to end the threat and force extra innings.
Sophomore transfer Taylor Durand tossed the first three innings in his first start for the Catamounts, allowing two runs on four hits with four strikeouts against a pair of walks. Freshmen Nate Williams and B.J. Nobles combined for the next three frames with three walks and a strikeout by Nobles. Sophomore Jonathan Waszak threw an inning plus before having to come out after back spasms with Colton Davis tossing an inning and two thirds before giving way to Fussell with two outs in the eighth.
Winthrop reliever Michael Green (0-1) took the loss, allowing the three 13th-inning runs on two hits with a strikeout. Thomas and Menken both recorded three hits for the Eagles with Kaczka finishing with a team-high three RBI.
WCU stranded 16 runners on base in the win while Winthrop left a dozen on the paths on Tuesday evening. The Catamounts stole a season-high nine bases with Strong and Bermudez both swiping two apiece.
Western Carolina returns to action on Wednesday evening as it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to face the Tennessee Volunteers (23-11). First pitch from Lindsay Nelson Stadium is scheduled for 6:00 pm.