May 5, 2012
Elon, N.C. - Sophomore catcher Adam Martin sparked a two-run eighth inning with a solo blast over the fence in left field as Western Carolina rallied Saturday night for a 6-5 win over the Elon Phoenix at Latham Park. Saturday's win was also part of history as it witnessed WCU senior infield Ross Heffley become the Catamounts' all-time leader in career base hits, doing so on the second pitch of his first at bat with a line drive single up the middle.
Trailing 5-3 after a four-run bottom of the fifth inning by the Phoenix, Western Carolina (28-17, 12-10 SoCon) trimmed the lead back to one in the sixth as Bradley Strong plated Bryant Noteboom on a deep sacrifice fly to center. Two frames later, Martin launched his team-leading seventh home run over the left field wall, knotting the game at five apiece.
Entering as a pinch hitter, Jacob Hoyle then doubled off the top of the fence in nearly the same location Martin had cleared the barrier before scoring on a single up the middle by Dykota Spiess. Junior closer Preston Hatcher, the seventh different pitcher used by the Catamounts in the win, then came on in the eighth to earn the save, giving up just one base hit in two frames while striking out three to earn his ninth save of the season.
Saturday night's loss for Elon was its first on the season when leading after seven innings, relegating the Phoenix to 22-1. It also marked the first opening game victory for WCU in its last three SoCon series since defeating Furman as a part of a three-game home sweep of the Paladins.
Catamount starter Jordan Smith factored in a no-decision after working five and two-thirds innings, scattering seven hits and allowing five runs. The Liberty, N.C., native worked around two walks and a pair of hit batters with six strikeouts. He left the game in the sixth inning with WCU tossing both redshirt senior Vance Chavis and freshman Tyler Powell with the latter recording the final out of the inning.
WCU and head coach Bobby Moranda unloaded the bullpen in the seventh as Powell started the frame before giving way to Hunter Brister for a third of an inning, senior Darron Dotson and finally Jon Nadale (3-2) who threw two thirds of a frame to get through the seventh and ultimately picked up the victory in relief.
Offensively for the Catamounts, Heffley was one of three Catamounts with multiple-hit games, tallying two singles with an RBI. Martin opened his outing with a double down the right field line before his deep bomb in the eighth, finishing 2-for-4 while Noteboom was 2-for-3 with two singles after earning the start in left field against Elon's left-handed starter.
Entering the weekend tied with former record-holder, Barrett Shaft (336, 2005-08), Heffley took sole possession atop the leader board in the first inning with a line-drive shot up the middle. He currently has 338 career base hits, fourth in Southern Conference history. He is just 17 hits shy of the two-way tie for second place between Charleston's Chris Campbell (2004-07) and The Citadel's Sonny Meade (2006-09) and is 22 shy of the league's pinnacle held by The Citadel's Philip Hartig (1998-01).
Elon (27-22, 16-9 SoCon) took the early lead as catcher Alex Swim walked and moved to second on a wild pitch before Ryan Kinsella's RBI single through the left side made it 1-0 Phoenix after one. WCU managed to pull in front in the second as Martin doubled and moved to third on a single by Julian Ridings. Freshman Dale Urquhart Jr., drove in the first tying run with a single to left with Aaron Attaway handing the Catamounts the lead by scoring Ridings on a single through the left side.
The Catamounts would tack on a run in the top of the fifth inning as Cody Jones singled and stole second before touching home on the RBI single up the middle by Heffley to lead 3-1.
In the bottom of the frame, Elon mounted a one-out rally to retake the advantage. Swim was plunked by a pitch to open the inning with second baseman Sebastian Gomez walking to put two aboard. Kinsella delivered his second RBI single before Jake Luce tripled to right to drive in two more runs. Joey Tomko laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt with a runner storming home from third to cap the four-run inning that left the Phoenix with a 5-3 lead through five complete, setting up WCU's rally.
Elon reliever John Antonelli (1-1) took the loss after allowing the tying and go-ahead runs in two innings of work, striking out three. Starter Dylan Clark worked five innings, giving up 10 hits and four runs with one walk against five strikeouts before exiting in the sixth inning.
Kinsella and shortstop Chris Bresnahan led Elon in the loss, both finishing 2-for-4 as the Catamounts outhit Elon, 13-to-8.
Game two is scheduled for Sunday evening with first pitch at 6:30 pm.