May 6, 2012
Elon, N.C. - Western Carolina homered three times in the first four innings in building a 5-1 lead only to see Elon rally to erase the Catamount advantage. Down by a run, WCU plated six runs in the sixth inning before holding off the Phoenix to score the 11-9 victory Sunday evening in Southern Conference action at Latham Park.
With the victory, Western Carolina claims the best-of-three league series over the Phoenix. It marks the first time since April of 2010 that Elon has dropped a home SoCon series, halting a string of 11-consecutive home series wins.
Freshmen Dale Urquhart Jr., and Bradley Strong paced four Catamounts with multiple-hit games by both recording 3-for-4 outings at the plate and combining to drive in five runs. Urquhart Jr., finished a triple shy of the cycle, driving his second career home run over the fence in center field for a two-run shot and sparking the six-run sixth inning with a double that hugged the chalk down the left field line. The Hope Mills, N.C., native finished with three RBI. Strong tallied two singles and a RBI double in the fourth inning, driving in two runs in the win.
Sophomores Aaron Attaway and Cody Jones both carded a pair of singles on Sunday with Jones reaching on a bunt down the first base line for his first knock. Ross Heffley finished 1-for-2, picking up career hit No. 339 on a solo home run in the first inning. The Snellville, Ga., native reached base all five times including two walks - one intentional - and a hit batsman.
Heffley put the Catamounts ahead in the top of the first inning with his team-high tying seventh home run of the season on a solo shot over the fence in left. The lead was short-lived, though, as Elon capitalized on a hit batter and two walks - the second coming with the bases loaded - to tie the game at one as Blaine Bower trotted home after the free pass issued to Joey Tomko, one of three he drew in the game.
In the top of the second inning, Bryant Noteboom was plunked by a pitch ahead of Urquhart Jr., who drove a 0-1 pitch over the fence in centerfield for a two-run homer and a 3-1 lead. WCU stretched its advantage with two more runs in the fourth as Noteboom collected his second home of the year on a one-out, solo blast to left centerfield. Urquhart then walked and was later plated on a RBI double by Strong to hand the Catamounts a 5-1 lead through three and a half.
Elon (27-23, 16-10 SoCon) chipped away at the Catamount advantage with three runs in the home half of the fourth as Quinn Bower, Sebastian Gomez and Alex Swim all three singled and scored, pulling the Phoenix back with a run, 5-4.
An inning later, the Phoenix pushed across two additional runs to pull ahead for the first time on the day as Swim doubled home the Bower brothers as Elon lead 6-5 after five complete innings.
Western Carolina reclaimed the lead in the decisive sixth inning, surging ahead with six runs on five hits and capitalizing on three Phoenix errors. Urquhart doubled inside the bag at third and was scored two batters later on a RBI single by Strong that moved pinch hitter Jacob Hoyle to second. Strong later scored on a wild pitch with Attaway singling and scoring while Jones reached on an error before Heffley was hit by a pitch. Tyler White lifted a sacrifice fly to center to drive in a run ahead of Adam Martin who singled home the fifth run.
Seven batters came to the plate in the sixth before Elon was able to record the first out. When the dust settled, WCU led 11-6.
Elon tried to chip away at the Catamount advantage, scoring once in the sixth on a Chris Bresnahan sacrifice fly to left field that was nearly a three-run homer. The Phoenix added another in the eighth on a Bresnahan single, but would leave the bases loaded in that inning.
Gomez started the last of the ninth with a double to left-center and went to third on a ground out before making it 11-9 on a Ryan Kinsella. Tomko picked up his third hit of the night to put the tying run aboard, but a 4-6-3 double play - the 48th turned by WCU this season - ended the Elon threat and the game.
All told, Elon stranded 15 base runners including leaving the bases loaded three times.
Jordan Darnell (1-2) took the loss as he allowed six runs on four hits in an inning of work. Ryan Pennell threw 3.2 scoreless innings to keep Elon in the game. He matched a career-high with five strike outs while limiting WCU to three hits.
For the second straight night, junior reliever Jon Nadale (4-2) picked up the win out of the bullpen. Nadale surrendered two runs - only one of which was earned - on two hits in two and a third innings. Preston Hatcher likewise made his second appearance of the series, earning his second save of the series and his 10th of the season by recording the final six outs.
Morgan McKinney tossed four innings in the start for the Catamounts, working around five walks and a hit batter with five strikeouts. The Gainesville, Fla., native allowed four runs on six hits before giving way to Adam Curtis to start the fifth inning. Curtis quickly retired the first two batters he faced before issuing back-to-back walks ahead of two hits including Swim's two-run double. Nadale came on to get Ryan Kinsella to fly out to center to end the inning.
The final game of the three-game set is scheduled for 2:30 pm on Monday afternoon. The game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard online with streaming audio at CatamountSports.com with air time of 2:15 pm.