Cullowhee, N.C. - Senior left-hander Bryan Sammons struck out 12 batters in eight innings while junior back stop Spencer Holcomb keyed a five-run seventh inning with a grand slam home run as Western Carolina claimed game one of its Southern Conference series over VMI, 9-1, Friday afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Game two of Friday's twin bill began amidst sporadic rain showers before eventually being halted in the bottom of the second inning with WCU (17-19, 8-5 SoCon) batting and ahead, 1-0. Despite every effort to return to play, pop-up rain showers prevented the grounds crew from getting the field ready for play, ultimately halting the game in the home half of the second.
The two teams will resume game two of the series at 10:30 am on Saturday morning before playing the third and final game of the series 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first. Fans can listen to the conclusion of game two with live streaming audio from the Catamount Sports Network online at CatamountSports.com.
Sammons (5-2) limited VMI to just one run on three hits through eight innings to score his fifth victory of the season. With his 52nd career start, the Wilmington, N.C., native moved into third in program history for games started, while the win pushed him into a tie for seventh-place, matching Phillip Grundy (1991-93) with 24 career victories on the mound. With his 12 strikeouts, Sammons also by-passed former Catamount Jordan Smith (291, 2011-14) for fourth in the school ledgers, now with 295 career punch outs.
Junior transfer Jacob Breakfield worked around three singles with a pair of strikeouts in tossing the ninth to close down the win for WCU.
Four Catamounts finished with multi-hit games on Friday with senior Matt Smith singling three times with two RBI in a 3-for-4 outing, also drawing a walk to reach base four times. The Fredericktown, Ohio, native stretched his reached base safely streak to 18-consecutive including a five-game hit streak. Junior Caleb Robinson reached three times including a pair of singles in a 2-for-3 showing, while both senior Nobu Suzuki and redshirt sophomore Matthew Koehler finished 2-for-4 with doubles -- Suzuki down the right field line and Koehler off the fence in left field.
With a second inning RBI double, redshirt senior Bryson Bowman extended both of his lengthy offensive streaks in the winning effort. The Baton, N.C., native finished 1-for-4, reaching base for the 36th-straight game -- each game WCU has played to date -- which includes a career-long 21-game hitting streak.
Junior Brett Pope reached base three times in the win, opening the game with a double and eventually giving the Catamounts a lead they would never relinquish. Classmate Cameron Blaquiere also homered in the sixth inning to lift the Catamounts to a 4-1 advantage through six complete.
But it was the big swing of Spencer Holcomb in the bottom of the seventh inning which ultimately put the game out of reach. Four-consecutive Catamounts reached base on a pair of walks -- including a 12-pitch at bat by Caleb Robinson -- and two singles that included a run-scoring knock by Smith all ahead of the Holcomb. The Pfafftown, N.C., product then tomahawked a home run over the fence in center to cap the five-run frame.
VMI (17-21, 4-9 SoCon) collected six total hits in the loss spread between five different players. Left fielder Ryan Hatten reached four times with a 2-for-2 performance at the plate coupled with a walk and a HBP. Shortstop Jacob Jaye delivered the first of back-to-back doubles in the top of the third with Collin Fleischer driving in the lone run for the Keydets, trimming the WCU lead to two, 3-1, at the time.
Keydet starter Josh Winder (5-3) was saddled with the loss, surrendering seven runs -- five of which were earned -- on 11 hits with a pair of walks against five strikeouts. He was the first of six total pitchers used by VMI, none tossing more than two-thirds of an inning to finish the game.
Don't forget that Saturday is Goodwill Day at both WCU Baseball (10:30 am/1:00 pm) and Catamount Softball (Noon/2 pm). Fans donating an item will receive a discounted admission price at baseball for just $3.00.