Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina made an early lead stand-up on Saturday evening, tacking on four runs at the game's midpoint before putting it away with a three-run eighth to take game one of its three-game Southern Conference series against Wofford, 9-3, on an unseasonably cold night at Childress Field / Hennnon Stadium.
The Catamounts (23-21, 12-7 SoCon) pounded out 12 hits in hanging three crooked numbers on the scoreboard in three different frames, overcoming a three-run seventh by the visiting Terriers.
An early Wofford error on a sacrifice bunt attempt in the first inning put two men aboard with senior Matt Smith driving in the first of two runs on a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Brett Pope to give WCU the 1-0 lead. Junior Caleb Robinson then delivered a RBI double to left center to push the margin to two after one.
In the fifth inning, the Catamounts used solid base running and another sacrifice hit by Smith to add to the advantage as Nobu Suzuki walked before Bryson Bowman singled to move him to third where he scored on the fly ball out. Returning to the lineup, catcher Spencer Holcomb belted a run-scoring single through the left side ahead of redshirt freshman Justin Sparks who legged out a double that drove in a run. Cameron Blaquiere then singled into left to plate a fourth marker.
When the dust had settled, the Catamounts led 6-0 through five complete.
Wofford (24-22, 9-7 SoCon) put the first three men aboard in the top of the seventh on a Carson Waln single, double by Mack Nathanson, and walk to Reed Massey to load the bases. A one-out infield ground out by Andrew Orzel plated Waln before Brett Rodriguez tripled to the gap in right center field to plate two additional markers to trim the deficit in half, 6-3.
However, the Catamounts managed to push the game back out of reach in the home half of the eighth, again taking advantage of Terrier miscues. A throwing error on a would-be sacrifice bunt and one on a dribbler out in front of the plate allowed two runs to score, with the third coming in on a sacrifice fly by Pope to cap scoring.
Bowman (2-for-5), Caleb Robinson (2-for-3), and Andrew Robinson (2-for-4) each finished with two-hit performances on Saturday in the winning effort. Smith, who extended his reached base safely streak to 26-straight, finished 1-for-3 with two RBI.
Senior starter Bryan Sammons (6-3) scored the victory, striking out seven against four walks through six and two thirds innings to tally his sixth win of the season and the 25th career victory, moving into a tie for sixth in program history matching Jordan Smith (25, 2011-14). The Wilmington, N.C., native also moved into second in two career statistical categories on Saturday, making his 54th career start -- second only to Smith (59) -- and with 307 strikeouts, by-passed Catamount great Jason Beverlin (306, 1992-94). He also moved into a tie with former Wofford pitcher Matthew Milburn (307, 2013-16) for 10th on the SoCon career ledgers.
Sammons surrendered three runs on just five hits before giving way to classmate Korey Anderson. The Grayson, Ga., native struck out two with one walk, working around a bases loaded jam in the top of the eighth inning to preserve a three-run advantage, a part of WCU stranding 10 Terrier base runners. Junior RHP Jake Niezen worked around two hits in tossing the ninth inning, closing the game in a non-save situation.
Wofford's Adam Scott (5-4) suffered the loss, also battling through six and two-thirds innings with four strikeouts and two walks. He was the first of five Terrier pitchers to make an appearance over the final inning and a third.
The three-game series concludes on Sunday in Cullowhee with a double-header scheduled for first pitch of game two at 1:30 pm and game three to follow immediately after the conclusion of the front end. Prior to first pitch, WCU will hold a special pregame ceremony honoring its senior class members playing their final three-game regular season home series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
NOTE: On Saturday evening, Ms. Audrey LeClair, a WCU student and daughter of former Catamount player and head coach, the late Keith LeClair, tossed out the ceremonial first pitch on a night the Catamounts -- and other teams around the Southern Conference -- wore wrist bands in honor of ALS Awareness Month and the "Strike Out ALS" promotion.