April 17, 2009
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Single runs in the top of the ninth and tenth innings lifted the visiting Samford Bulldogs to an 8-7, extra-inning win over Western Carolina Friday night in the Southern Conference series opener at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. It was the first-ever meeting between the two schools in baseball.
Mason Meredeth's two-out, two-strike double off the `Purple Monster' in left drove home the game-tying run in the form of Wayne Miller to force extra innings. Then, Joe Durham's pinch-hit single up the middle plated the game-winning run as Bo Smith touched the dish for the 8-7 lead.
A tough-luck double-play in the bottom of the tenth ended any chance at a Catamount rally, sealing the win for the Bulldogs. With runners on first and second and one out, Bulldog pitcher Josh Martin got Ross Heffley to ground into a 6-4-3, game-ending double-play that was far from routine. Replacement shortstop Michael Johnson bobbled the chopper up the middle, booting the ball towards second base. Unfortunately for WCU, second baseman Stephen Ballard was able to corral the loose baseball on the bag at second for the force play, and then threw on to first in time to beat Heffley by a step to end the game.
Johnson (1-4) pitched the final 4.1 innings in relief of starter Michael Jarry to earn his first victory of the season. The reliever struck out three against one walk, holding WCU to a pair of hits and one earned run. The Catamounts touched-up Jarry for 11 hits, including three home runs and six earned runs. He fanned five with just one walk.
In an attempt to avoid the forecasted rain showers on Sunday, officials at Western Carolina have made the decision to move the finale to Saturday as a part of a double-header which will begin at 2:00 pm. Forecasters are calling for rain to begin mid-morning on Sunday and linger through the early afternoon hours before changing over to thunder storms late, prompting the change.
Friday was the second extra inning victory in a row for Samford (14-24, 8-11) who downed in-state rival, Alabama, on Wednesday night, 14-13, in 10 innings in Birmingham. WCU suffered its first extra inning loss, dropping to 2-1 in extra frames this year. The Catamounts have also matched a season-long losing skid with their fourth-straight defeat - and ninth in the last 11 games.
Western Carolina (20-15, 9-6 SoCon) matched a season-high with four home runs in the game. Brent Greer put WCU on the board with a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth, with Stephen Notaro notching his team-leading eighth homer of the year two batters later to trim the Bulldog advantage three, 5-2, after four. Nick Liles' lone hit of the night was a solo homer to left in the sixth, with Trevor Collias belting his fourth home run in the last eight games also with a solo shot to left.
Despite not logging a four-bagger, Matt Johns led the way for the Catamounts with a perfect 4-for-4 showing at the plate with three singles and a two RBI double. Notaro and Collias were the only other Catamounts with multi-hit games, each finishing 2-for-4.
Closer Daniel Ottone (3-2), who threw one pitch to end the Bulldog threat in the top of the ninth after the game-tying run had already scored, suffered the loss after allowing three hits and the game-winning run in the 10th.
Reliever Garrett Ozar, who threw two and two-thirds in relief of starter Chris Masters, was one strike away from closing the game with a Catamount win in regulation. The RBI double to left by Meredeth chased the senior for Ottone in the ninth. Ozar struck out three while allowing two earned runs on four hits. Masters surrendered five runs - only two of which were earned - on five hits in six innings in the no-decision.
Again, games two and three of the series have been moved into a Saturday double-header beginning at 2:00 pm. Right-handers Corey Martin and Mike Tavernier are scheduled to start for the Catamounts.