May 8, 2007
Columbus, Ohio - Western Carolina used three home runs, including back-to-back solo shots by juniors Blake Murphy and Steven Strausbaugh in the top of the ninth inning to power past the Ohio State Buckeyes, 7-3, Tuesday night in front of 615 fans at Bill Davis Stadium.
Leading by two, 5-3, entering the ninth inning, Murphy lifted the first pitch he saw over the fence in left field for a one-out solo home run - his 10th of the season - to push the advantage back to three runs, 6-3. The next batter, Strausbaugh, fought off multiple foul balls before blasting his eighth long ball - and fifth in the past six games - over the wall in left to provide the final tally.
Following the back-to-back round trippers - the first home runs allowed by Buckeye reliever, Rory Meister, this season - Meister proceeded to plunk the next batter, senior Kenny Smith, between the numbers and was immediately ejected from the game providing for an eventful finish.
Adding to the excitement was a two-out rally by Ohio State off WCU reliever, freshman Chris Masters, as the Buckeyes loaded the bases with two gone before junior Greg Holland was summonsed from the bullpen to shut the door.
Senior starter Brock Thornburg (3-2) allowed three earned runs while scattering five base hits with a walk and five strikeouts, one shy of tying his season-high, to capture his third victory of the season. Masters shut down the Buckeye hitters, allowing just two base hits and one walk while fanning a pair before OSU loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Yet, Holland came on and threw three pitches to record his 44th strikeout of the season to end the game, collecting his ninth save of the season to secure the victory. Holland's nine saves this season tie his career-high and ranks second on the single-season saves chart. The Marion, N.C., native has 18 saves in his career, fourth all-time at Western.
After falling behind 1-0 on a solo home run by short stop Jason Zoeller in the home half of the third inning, Western (33-15) manufactured a run as freshman Nick Liles bunted his way aboard with one out. Two batters later, sophomore Mitchell Hatley singled to left field to put two aboard with two gone before junior Barrett Shaft lifted an RBI single to right center, scoring Liles from second to tie the game at one apiece.
In the top of the sixth, Western took the lead for good as Buckeye reliever, Theron Minium, gave up a one-out single to Kenny Smith, thus extending his current hitting streak to a season-long 15 games. Junior Jonathan Greene reached on a fielding error by the short stop on a bouncing ball that could have been turned into a double-play but instead extended the frame with two aboard.
The next batter, senior John Ingram, laced a line drive at the third baseman, Tony Kennedy, who attempted to double-up Greene at first, but over threw Justin Miller at first with the ball bounding into the stands down the right field line entitling the runners to two bases, scoring Smith from second. Liles drove in Greene with an RBI single and later advanced to second on a wild pitch by Minium. Two batters later, Hatley drove in Liles for the three-run frame and a 4-1 lead.
Ohio State (28-16) countered with two in the bottom of the sixth, slicing the lead to one, 4-3, before the Catamounts broke the game open for good with a solo home run on the first pitch of the eighth inning by Ingram, followed by the fireworks of the ninth inning.
Four Catamounts posted multiple hit games, including 2-for-5 performances by both Strausbaugh and Shaft, as well as 2-for-4 showings from Liles and Hatley.
OSU starter, Eric Best, worked five innings for the Buckeyes, striking out a career-high seven before being lifted prior to the sixth inning and did not factor into the decision. Offensively, Zoeller was the lone Ohio State player with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with his eighth home run of the year.
Western and Ohio State wrap-up the two-game set on Wednesday afternoon in Columbus with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05 pm. The game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard locally in Western North Carolina on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee or online at www.WWCUFM.com. Fans can also follow the action with live GameTracker, presented by Carolina West Sports Medicine and West Care Health Systems, by logging onto www.CatamountSports.com.