April 26, 2009
Greenville, S.C. - Mike Tavernier worked eight solid innings with six strikeouts in the starting role, with Garrett Ozar pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning as Western Carolina held off Furman for a 6-4 win at Latham Stadium in the rubber match to take the three-game Southern Conference series, two games to one.
Tavernier scattered eight base hits -- including two to open the ninth inning -- through his eight frames while allowing all four runs by the Paladins, only two of which were earned. The Clearwater, Fla., native worked around four walks with six strikeouts in evening his seasonal record at 4-4.
Ozar, who inherited Tavernier's two base runners, came on in the ninth and struck out second baseman Will Owens looking for the first out of the inning before surrendering a one-out single that loaded the bases. The Oak Park, Calif., native then struck out Brian Harrison looking before snaring a line drive right back up the middle off the bat of Matt Hemingway to end the threat and the game.
Ozar allowed just the one base hit that filled the bases with a pair of strikeouts in posting his second save of the year.
SoCon Freshman of the Year candidate, Ross Heffley, gave WCU an early 2-0 lead with a two-run home run to left center field in the top of the first inning. The shot was his third of the season. However, Furman answered with a two-run shot of its own in the bottom of the frame as Matt Hemmingway scored two of his game-high three RBI on a home run to right center to tie the game through one.
Trevor Collias put the Catamounts back on top in the fourth as he lifted a solo home run on the first pitch of the inning for the 3-2 edge through four innings.
Western's second error of the day proved costly in the bottom of the fifth inning. Furman's Connor Lind opened the frame with a triple to left field to put the tying run 90-feet away. The speedy second baseman Marcus Rose grounded out to Tavernier on a sacrifice bunt attempt, with Justin Holloway striking out swinging for the second out. WCU then induced a ground ball to the left side off the bat of Harrison, but the throw short hopped Matt Johns at first allowing the run to score and Harrison to scamper to second. The next batter, Hemingway, laced a single up the middle to plate the go-ahead run from second, giving Furman a 4-3 lead.
The advantage proved to be short-lived, though, as Western (25-17, 13-7 SoCon) responded with the decisive three-spot in the visitors' portion of the sixth. Brent Greer doubled down the right field line to open the frame with Collias walking to put two aboard ahead of Rembert Rollison. On a full-count pitch after fouling off three-consecutive, Rollison doubled to right center field for his lone hit of the game, scoring both runners and handing Western a one-run, 5-4, lead. Catcher Logan Bland eventually plated Rollison on a ground out to the left side of the infield to provide the final tally.
Collias and J.C. Lyons posted WCU's two multi-hit games, both going 2-for-4 in the win, with Heffley and Rollison accounting for two RBI apiece.
Furman starter Barry Benton (2-5) suffered the loss in five innings of work, surrendering six earned runs on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. Reliever Bobby Lyne worked four, two-hit and scoreless relief, pitching around three walks with three strikeouts.
Hemingway was the offensive leader for Furman, finishing 2-for-5 with the two-run homer and a third RBI on the single in the fifth. Lind finished 3-for-4 with a run scored and his first triple of the season.
Western Carolina steps out of conference play for a pair of mid-week games beginning on Tuesday at Charlotte against the 49ers. The Catamounts return home on Wednesday to host Tennessee Tech beginning at 6:00 pm at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.