April 20, 2007
Cullowhee, N.C. - After surrendering a one-run lead in the top of the eighth inning, Western Carolina rallied with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame and reliever Greg Holland worked a one-two-three top of the ninth as the Catamounts upended the Elon Phoenix, 4-2, in game one of a three-game Southern Conference series Friday night at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium.
Starting pitcher, junior Tyler Sexton (6-0), worked seven innings before running into trouble in the eighth and was unable to earn his seventh victory of the season. Instead, Holland (2-2) worked the final two frames to pick up his second win this year, facing the minimum in hitless, scoreless relief.
Sexton pitched a gem for the Catamounts, which won for the 11th-time in its past 12 games. The High Point, N.C., native only gave up two unearned runs on five base hits with five strikeouts versus no walks.
Junior Steven Strausbaugh led the Catamounts at the plate, raising his seasonal batting average by 17 points with a perfect 3-for-3 outing and two runs scored, including the game-winner. Freshman Nick Liles collected his sixth double of the season in the lone extra base hit of the game.
After allowing the game's second unearned run in the top of the eighth, Western rallied in the home portion to reclaim the lead. Strausbaugh led off with a single to right field, hammering an 0-2 curve ball before advancing to second when the right-fielder, Ryan Addison, bobbled the all. Junior Jonathan Greene was hit by a pitch to put two aboard before senior Kenny Smith laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners to second and third.
With two on and no outs, Elon (22-18, 11-5 SoCon) intentionally walked senior John Ingram to load the bases. Then, after two fastball swinging strikes to the WCU designated hitter, Andy John, Phoenix starter, Steven Hensley, plunked John to drive in the go-ahead run in the form of Strausbaugh. The next batter, Liles, grounded out to the third baseman on a ball hit slowly along the infield which allowed Greene to score for the 4-2 advantage.
In the ninth, Holland induced a pop-fly and two ground outs to the left side of the infield against the two, three and four hitters in the Phoenix lineup to earn the victory.
In addition to the play of Strausbaugh and pitching of Sexton, Western's defense shown through in the tight, nip-and-tuck game. The Catamounts managed a pair of double-plays in the win, both coming after Elon had managed to put their lead-off man aboard.
Western opened scoring in the bottom of the third as freshman Brent Greer led off with a single to left field before advancing to third on a ground out and fly out by juniors Barrett Shaft and Blake Murphy, respectively. The Manassas, Va., native touched home for the first run on an RBI single up the middle by Strausbaugh.
Elon tied the game in the top of the sixth, capitalizing on a one-out WCU throwing error before Sexton picked off a base runner and struck out the next batter to retire the side. The Catamounts, though, responded with a single run in the bottom of the inning, missing out on an opportunity to blow the game open. Three-consecutive singles by Strausbaugh, Greene and Smith - the latter an infield bunt base hit that allowed Strausbaugh to score from second with nobody out. However, Ingram reached on a fielder's choice and Greene, who advanced to third on Smith's bunt, was hung up between third and home for the first out. With two on, Hensley got consecutive ground outs to end the threat after only allowing the one run, setting up the eighth inning heroics.
Western and Elon play game two of the three-game set on Saturday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 4:00 pm. The Catamounts will send red-shirt sophomore LHP Drew Saberhagen (4-1, 2.66 ERA) to the hill while Elon is slated to counter with sophomore RHP Will Romanowicz (4-1, 5.58 ERA). Fans can follow all of the action live on GameTracker, presented by Carolina West Sports Medicine and West Care Health Systems, by logging onto www.CatamountSports.com.