Cullowhee, N.C. -
Western Carolina swept both ends of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader on Senior Day at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium, blanking Wofford, 3-0, in game one before holding off the Terriers, 10-7, in the night cap to complete the series sweep and wrap-up the 2013 Southern Conference Regular Season Championship.
WCU's three-game sweep coupled with The Citadel's home loss to the College of Charleston in the final game of their three-game conference series results in the Catamounts claiming the 2013 regular season. It is the first SoCon title for the storied WCU program since 2007 and moves the Catamounts back into a tie with The Citadel with 21 combined titles all-time, 12 regular season and nine tournament. (The Citadel has 13 regular season crowns and eight tournament championships).
The Catamounts stretched their current winning streak to nine, and have won 19 of their last 21 games overall. The squad also extended their consecutive SoCon wins to 14-straight, one shy of the school-record of 15 established in 1994. WCU also completed the three-game series sweep over Wofford marking the fourth-straight, three-game league series sweep this season - the most consecutive league series sweeps in program history.
WCU also improved to 7-1 in doubleheaders this season with the lone loss in the backend of a twinbill with The Citadel back on March 30.
Honored in a pregame ceremony on Sunday afternoon, the Catamount seniors shined on Sunday in the final two home games of their WCU careers. Infielder Tyler White paced the squad with a 5-for-9 (.556) showing at the plate including a home run while outfielder Bryant Noteboom hauled in the final out in right field that set-off the post-game celebration.
On the mound, redshirt senior left-hander Morgan McKinney struck out six in tossing six scoreless innings to earn the victory in game one while Preston Hatcher tied the school single-season record with his 14th save of the year. Reliever Jon Nadale tossed a third of an inning out of the bullpen in game two which clinched the regular season championship.
Offensively, Western Carolina powered past the Terriers with 11 extra base hits including five doubles, a triple and five home runs while Wofford managed five extra base hits with four doubles and a triple.
Also key in the series victory was WCU's combined efforts to slow the lethal base running prowess of the Terriers. Wofford came into the weekend with 157 stolen bases on the year, tops in Division I baseball. WCU catcher Adam Martin threw out six would-be base stealers, twice recording double plays on Sunday with a strike-out, throw-out, with McKinney picking off a runner, too.
All told, Wofford was held to just two stolen bases over the three-game weekend series.
Playing a Sunday doubleheader after rain washed out game two of the series on Saturday evening, WCU saw its magic number to secure at least a share of the SoCon regular season crown drop from two to one with its victory in game one of the twinbill. However, less than 10 minutes after the final out was recorded in game one, the Catamounts' magic number disappeared as it was confirmed that CofC had downed its crosstown rival, The Citadel, 7-5.
WCU entered the final game on Sunday knowing that a win would lock them into the regular season championship.
Game One - Western Carolina 3, Wofford 0
Left-hander Morgan McKinney (4-2) scattered four hits through six innings of shutout baseball as the Catamounts blanked Wofford, 3-0, in game one of its SoCon doubleheader. The Gainesville, Fla., native pitched around a career-high seven walks with six strikeouts in battling for his squad, securing his fourth victory of the season.
Freshman Jonathan Wazak struck out two in an inning of relief work while sophomore Tyler Powell fanned one in his hitless, scoreless inning of work before handing the ball to senior Preston Hatcher in the ninth. The Atlanta, Ga., native got one ground ball out and a pair of fly outs in the three batters he faced to score his 14th save of the year, matching Mike Manning's single-season record established back in 1994. Hatcher extended his WCU career saves record to 24.
Offensively, WCU pushed across two runs in the home half of the third and got a solo home run down the right field line by Julian Ridings in securing the team's second shutout victory of the season.
Bradley Strong reached on an infield single and promptly stole second base to move into scoring position in the bottom of the third inning. Luke Gragg drove a fly ball to deep right center field with Strong tagging and advancing to third. However, Wofford botched the ensuing relay throw back to the infield allowing Strong to scamper home from third for the game's first run. The rally continued for WCU as Cody Jones and Aaron Attaway both singled to put runners at the corners. The two then executed a perfect delayed steal with Attaway racing to second and drawing a throw that allowed Jones to cross home with the second marker.
Attaway and Strong both finished 2-for-4 in the win as WCU outhit Wofford, 8-to-5.
WCU twice managed to work around a pair of two-out walks as the Terriers put runners on in the fourth and sixth innings with two away. However, both times, the Catamount defense responded behind McKinney to end the frame. Wofford stranded six runners on base.
In the sixth, Ridings led off with a solo home run on a 1-1 pitch to provide the final tally.
Terrier starter Jesse Morris (7-5) struck out nine hitters through seven innings, surrendering three earned runs on eight hits while walking one.
Game Two - Western Carolina 10, Wofford 7
In the night cap, Western Carolina flexed its offensive muscle as nine of the 16 Catamount hits went for extra bases including four home runs as the home squad erased an early 2-0 deficit with 10-straight runs. The Terriers were able to scratch the scoreboard for five markers over the final two frames, but were unable to derail the Catamounts as WCU held on for the 10-7 victory.
Adam Martin drove home a career-high five RBI including a three-run home run and two on a double down the left field line, while Tyler White collected four hits in his five plate appearances, tying the game in the third inning with a two-run home run. Jacob Hoyle added a towering home run over the batter's eye in straight away center field just moments after White's homer in the third. Bradley Strong also got in on the long-ball action with his second round-tripper of the year in the fifth inning, adding his team-high tying fourth triple of the season as well.
On the mound, the Catamounts received another solid performance from junior right-hander Jordan Smith (6-3) who claimed his fifth-straight win in his last five outings. The Liberty, N.C., product scattered six Terrier hits while limiting Wofford to a pair of early runs, striking out seven against one walk in five and two thirds innings.
WCU used six relievers, five of which tossing two-thirds of an inning or less. Tyler Powell struck out two out of the bullpen before Preston Hatcher closed the game for WCU.
Ahead 3-2 after the White and Hoyle homers in the bottom of the third, WCU added a single run in the fourth following Strong's three-base hit, scoring on an RBI double through the left side by Luke Gragg. The Catamounts broke the game open in the home portion of the fifth on the Martin homer followed two batters later by Strong's shot to right center.
Martin's double in the sixth stretched the Catamount lead to eight, 10-2.
Wofford (20-34, 10-20 SoCon) would not go quietly, though, plating three unearned runs in the top of the eighth inning to claw back within five. James Plaisted scored from third on a strikeout wild pitch that put Matthew Kaskow aboard. A single by Derek Hirsch put two runners aboard before a double steal moved both into scoring position. Lead-off hitter Clark Wise, who finished 2-for-5, then tripled to center field to score both runs.
The Terriers continued to make things interesting in the top of the ninth inning as Seth Neely drew a one-out walk ahead of Plaisted who doubled deep in the gap in left center field. Matt Ramsay grounded out to first to drive in one run before Matthew Pelt doubled through the left side to bring home the seventh marker of the game.
Wofford starter Matthew Milburn (3-3) took the loss after giving up four runs on eight hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Terrier closer Eric Eck tossed two and two thirds in middle relief, allowing six earned runs on seven hits, striking out a pair with one walk.
Western Carolina returns to action in its final three-game Southern Conference series of the year this Thursday through Saturday as it visits archrival, Appalachian State, in Boone. The Catamounts and Mountaineers will play at 6:30 pm on Thursday and Friday evenings before concluding the set with a 3:00 pm first pitch on Saturday, May 18.
All three games will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio (free) available online at CatamountSports.com.