May 10, 2014
Statesboro, Ga. - Georgia Southern outfielder Stryker Brown delivered a lead-off, walk-off home run that skirted the fence in right field as the Eagles edged Western Carolina, 1-0, in a pitcher's duel Saturday afternoon at J.I. Clements Stadium.
The series rubber match - and final regular season meeting between WCU and GSU as members of the Southern Conference - is scheduled for a 1:30 pm first pitch on Sunday afternoon.
With two of the top offensive teams meeting on the diamond, it was the two starting pitchers that shined the brightest on a muggy afternoon in southeastern Georgia. Catamount starter Jordan Smith (8-4) and GSU's Sam Howard matched each other into the ninth inning in the second game of the series.
Smith struck out five without issuing a walk, allowing the one run in eight solid innings while Howard tossed 8.2 innings, striking out 10 against two walks but factored in a no-decision. Reliever Matt McCall (4-2) recorded the final out in the top of the ninth inning on a strikeout after walking one to secure the victory in relief.
Brown drove the first pitch of his at bat in the ninth inning to right field and it sailed just beyond the reach of right fielder Dykota Spiess who leaped up the fence trying to pull it back to provide the game-winning run. The senior from Dalton, Ga.., was the only hitter with more than one base hit on the day.
Five different Catamount batters collected singles on the afternoon. Junior Jacob Hoyle reached twice with a single and was hit by a pitch, with redshirt senior Taylor Sandefur drawing all three walks issued by Eagle pitching.
Hoyle gave WCU its first base hit in the second inning before a double-play erased him from the base paths. The Hickory, N.C., native again reaching to start the fifth on a hit batsman, promptly stealing second base to move into scoring position. The Catamounts would put runners at the corners after a two-out walk by Sandefur, but couldn't scratch the scoreboard after a ground out to the left side ended the frame.
WCU's best threat came in the top of the seventh inning, loading the bases with two outs. Gragg led off with a bunt single with Sandefur walking before J.D. Long delivered a sharp single to shortstop to put Catamounts at all three bags. However, the Eagles were able to thwart the rally on a close play at first base as freshman Dylan Prevatte bounced a one-hopper off Howard's hip before he recovered to throw on to first just in the nick of time, canceling Gragg's run coming to the plate.
Smith and the Catamounts worked around a jam in the home portion of the seventh as a pair of Eagle singles put runners at the corners with one out. However, the Liberty, N.C., product got a strikeout and a fly ball out to right to end the GSU half of the inning.
In the eighth, Bradley Strong singled and stole second in the visitor's half only to be left in scoring position to keep the game scoreless. Mirroring the Catamounts in the bottom of the frame, Hunter Thomas singled through the right side before pinch runner Josh Black moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Yet he, too, was left on base.
The Cats mounted one final push as Sandefur drew his third walk of the game in the top of the ninth, but reliever McCall recorded a strikeout to end the inning, setting up Brown's ninth-inning heroics.
Brown's two hits led all hitters, scoring the game's only run on the final frame home run. GSU's Kody Adams collected the only other extra base hit allowed by the combined three pitchers, doubling in the third inning but was stranded at second base.
- With the loss, the Catamounts dropped to 17-5 in Southern Conference play and into a tie atop the conference standings with Davidson with matching records;
- Senior Adam Martin finished Saturday's game 0-for-4, snapping his career-best 18-game reached base safely streak ... Junior Jacob Hoyle takes over with the longest consecutive reaching streak at 12 games which includes a team-high tying nine game hitting streak, matching senior Cody Jones in that category;
- Senior Jordan Smith tossed eight innings against Georgia Southern, moving into a tie atop the WCU career leader board for innings pitched ... Smith has 363.0 career innings pitched, matching Clark Maxwell (1994-97) for first all-time ... Smith has 57 career starts, tops in program history ... With five strikeouts on Saturday, Smith has 280 in his career, still fourth in school history;
- Smith fell to 2-3 all-time in his Catamount career against Georgia Southern.