Birmingham, Ala. - Western Carolina never found its offensive rhythm on Friday night, collecting eight hits but stranding 13 runners on base as the Catamounts dropped their Southern Conference series-opener at Samford, 8-3, at Joe Lee Griffin Stadium. The loss halts WCU's five-game seasonal winning streak while also ending its three-game streak in the series with the Bulldogs.
Twin brothers Luke Robinson and Andrew Robinson combined for four of WCU's eight hits on the day, both collecting two singles apiece. Luke finished 2-for-3, entering after a knee injury forced starting catcher Spencer Holcomb out of the lineup in the bottom of the second inning. Andrew finished 2-for-4 with a run scored after his eighth inning infield single.
Senior Nobu Suzuki reached base three times with a walk and two HBPs, tallying a RBI the second time he was plunked. He also scored WCU's first run in the seventh inning.
Senior Bryson Bowman was able to extend both of his impressive offensive streaks in the loss with a third inning base hit to left center. The Baton, N.C., native has reached base in 41-straight games -- every game the Catamounts have played this year -- while stretching his active hitting streak to 26-consecutive. Classmate Matt Smith walked three times -- once intentionally -- to extend his reached base safely streak to 23-straight games.
Leading 1-0 entering the fourth inning, Samford (25-17, 6-7 SoCon) broke the game open with four runs in the home half of the frame as Kevin Williams Jr., singled home the first run ahead of a three-run homer hit by designated hitter Ayrton Schafer to make it 5-0 through four complete.
An inning later, the Bulldogs added to their lead with a two-spot, cashing in on a lead-off double by Branden Fryman and a two-base throwing error on an infield bunt single by Jordan Fucci. Austin Edens handed the home squad a seven-run lead with a run-scoring single to right to plate Fucci.
The Catamounts (21-20, 10-6 SoCon) managed to scratch the scoreboard in the top of the seventh as Suzuki and Smith both walked with consecutive wild pitches allowing Suzuki to scamper home to pull WCU back to within six. In the eighth, WCU loaded the bases with two walks and a Robinson single before Suzuki was hit by the first pitch by reliever Wyatt Burns to push across a run. WCU would only managed one additional run on a wild pitch to close the deficit to four, 7-3.
Samford tacked on an insurance marker in the bottom of the eighth as Fucci dropped a full-count pitch into right field to score Anthony Mulrine to cap scoring and provide the final tally. Fucci and third baseman Taylor Garris both tallied two hits apiece to pace the Bulldogs with Schafer's three-run home run collecting a game-high three RBI.
Senior Bryan Sammons (5-3) was saddled with the loss, surrendering seven runs -- six earned -- on nine hits with five strikeouts against three walks over five innings. Reliever Dylan Biumi allowed one run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts against two walks in 2.2 innings out of the bullpen, while Jake Niezen threw one pitch to record the final out of the eighth in a third of an inning.
Bulldog starter Cody Shelton (4-1) picked up the victory, scattering seven hits over six shutout innings while working around two walks with three strikeouts. Including issuing four walks and three hits, reliever Jared Brasher was tagged for three runs on just one hit with three strikeouts. Burns struck out two over an inning and two-thirds innings.
Game two of the three-game league series is scheduled for a 3:00 pm ET / 2:00 pm CT first pitch on Saturday afternoon.