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Catamounts Even Series Behind McKinney's Strong Showing

Ross Heffley (pictured) was one of three Catamounts with three-hits on Saturday against Charleston. Heffley moved to within one hit of tying, two from breaking the school-record for career hits. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

April 28, 2012

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Cullowhee, N.C. - Behind the solid start of redshirt junior left-hander Morgan McKinney, Western Carolina evened its three-game Southern Conference series with the College of Charleston on Saturday afternoon, holding on for a one-run, 7-6, victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

The Catamounts led 7-1 entering the top of the ninth inning before surrendering five runs that allowed the Cougars to claw back within one. However, closer Preston Hatcher was able to recover to shut the door and earn his eighth save of the season in the victory - the second, one-run game of the series.

The series rubber match is scheduled for Sunday afternoon with first pitch at 1:00 pm. The game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio (free) and streaming video through Catamount All-Access (subscription) available on Fans can also follow the game with live GameTracker.

McKinney (6-2) pitched into the ninth inning before a hit batsman and a walk were followed by the only error by WCU in the win to chase him from the mound. When the Gainesville, Fla., native left the game, he had only surrendered two runs on just three hits to the Cougars with the second marker touching home on the ninth inning throwing miscue. McKinney finished with eight innings and four runs allowed, walking four with three strikeouts.

Following a two-out walk issued to Marty Gantt in the top of the second inning, McKinney and the Catamounts retired 13-consecutive Cougar hitters until Brandon Glazer led off the top of the seventh with a single to right field. The very next batter in Gunnar Heidt bounced into a double-play that erased Glazer and helped provide the fifth of six-straight, three-up and three-down innings for Charleston.

Senior reliever Darron Dotson allowed both inherited runners to score on a pinch hit double by Cody Martin that pulled Charleston back with three runs, 7-4, before Hatcher was summoned from the bullpen. Despite surrendering a two-run, pinch hit home run to Tyler Jackson, Hatcher managed to get Drew Watts to bounce out to short before striking out Gantt to end the game, finishing with an inning of work.

Western Carolina (27-16, 11-9 SoCon) had three players at the top of their order combine for nine of their series-high 14 hits in the victory. Middle infielders Aaron Attaway and Ross Heffley both finished 3-for-4 while Tyler White was 3-for-5 on the afternoon. Attaway scored twice and drove in one while White posted an RBI single as a part of WCU's four-run seventh inning.

Heffley moved to within one hit of tying - and two hits shy of breaking - the school's career hits record currently held by Barrett Shaft (2005-08). The senior from Snellville, Ga., has five hits on the weekend - and 335 career base knocks - to stand one shy of Shaft at 336, which would also move into fourth-place in the SoCon record books.

All told, Western Carolina out-hit the Cougars, 14-to-5.

The College of Charleston (30-13, 18-8) took the early 1-0 lead as Brandon Murray scored from second on an RBI single through the right side by Rob Harding. In the home half of the frame, Attaway raced home from third with the tying run on a double-play turned by the middle of the Cougar infield.

WCU took the lead for good in the third inning with the second of seven-straight runs. Freshman Connor Andrus, who earned the start behind the plate, doubled to left center before coming home on a sacrifice fly to deep right by Attaway to lead, 2-1.

In the fourth inning, Adam Martin was plunked for the second time in the game and was moved around on a sacrifice bunt by Julian Ridings before Bryant Notebook drove him home. Noteboom, who was amidst an 0-for-19 slump at the time of his second at-bat of the game, drove the third pitch of his at bat to left centerfield and handed the Catamounts a 3-1 margin.

Western Carolina pushed across four runs in the seventh inning as Attaway singled to open the frame before advancing to third by stealing second and taking advantage of a wild pitch. White then deposited a 1-2 pitch into right field to give the Catamounts a 4-1 lead. A single by Cody Jones and an infield bunt base hit by Ridings loaded the bases for pinch hitter Dykota Spiess who laced a two-out double off the fence in left to score all three base runners for a 7-1 lead after seven complete.

The Cougars pushed across the five-spot in the top of the ninth before WCU was able to close the game.

CofC recorded five hits scattered amongst five different batters with Friday's hero -Daniel Aldrich - finishing 0-for-2 with a pair of walks. Murray scored two runs after recording a base hit and a HBP to reach twice. Cody Martin drove in two on his pinch hit double while Jackson posted a pair of RBI on his pinch hit home run in the ninth.

Cougar starting pitcher Josh Renfro (6-4) took the loss after giving up three runs on five hits with a walk in four innings of action. Midweek starter, Ryan West, was called upon for middle relief where he worked three innings but was tagged for four runs on seven hits, fanning three. Dre Watts tossed the final frame of two-hit, scoreless relief posting the fourth strikeout by CofC pitching on the afternoon.

Game three is scheduled for 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon.