April 19, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina rode the strong right arm of sophomore starter Jeremy Null and capitalized on a seven-run second inning to take the Southern Conference series-opener from visiting Georgia Southern, 9-3, on Friday night at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Null (4-2) struck out a career-high 14 batters in scoring the victory, recording 10-straight outs between the fourth and seventh innings via the strikeout. It is the third time this season that the Claremont, N.C., native tallied double-digit K's. Null limited the Eagles to just five hits, surrendering three runs with just two freebies on a pair of HBP's.
Freshman reliever Jonathan Waszak tossed a perfect ninth inning for Western Carolina (24-16, 13-6 SoCon), inducing three ground ball outs to secure the win.
Junior Julian Ridings remained hot at the plate, finishing 2-for-5 with a three-run home run and a double while classmate Aaron Attaway collected three singles in a 3-for-5 showing at the dish with a RBI. Ridings stretched his consecutive multiple-hit games to seven-straight - and 10 of the last 11 games played.
Trailing by a run entering the home half of the second inning, the Catamounts sent 12 batters to the plate in what turned out to be the decisive inning. WCU scored seven runs on just four hits, taking advantage several Eagle miscues. Jacob Hoyle reached on a swinging strikeout-wild pitch before an apparent muffed throw at second on a fielder's choice allowed Dykota Spiess to reach. A sacrifice bunt by Luke Gragg followed by a walk to Martin loaded the bases for Strong who delivered with the double to left-center, pushing WCU ahead, 2-1.
The inning continued as Cody Jones struck out, but again reached on a second wild pitch from GSU starter Justin Hess (3-4) allowing Martin to score. With runners at the corners, Attaway singled to center to drive in a run making it 4-1 in favor of the home squad. Ridings then laced a line-drive home run down the right field line to cap scoring on his three-run blast - his third-straight game with a homer.
Georgia Southern (21-17, 10-9 SoCon) chipped away with two runs in the top of the third inning as Stryker Brown tripled to right center field to drive in Tyler Avera. Chase Griffin later singled home Brown to pull the Eagles back within four, 7-3.
The Catamounts were able to get both third inning runs back in the fourth and sixth innings with Ridings plating both. The Shelby, N.C., native hit a one-out double before eventually scampering home on an Eagle wild pitch in the fourth. In the sixth, he reached on a fielder's choice and took second on a throwing error on the same play. Later, a second error on the would-be third out allowed Ridings to race home from second base, providing the final tally, 9-3.
Hess was tagged with the loss for Georgia Southern - its sixth-straight on the year - allowing all nine runs - with only two going down as earned markers. He scattered seven hits through five and two thirds with 10 strikeouts, but issued two walks and plunked two. The same breaking ball that helped him strikeout double digits also cost the right-handed starter in the form of four wild pitches - two coming on strikeouts that allowed runners to reach. T.D. Davis gave GSU the early lead with his lone hit of the day on a solo home run in the top of the second inning with Avera finishing 2-for-3 to pace GSU offensively.
Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. Fans can follow all of the action through live GameTracker (free) also available online at CatamountSports.com.