Muncie, Indiana - Western Carolina broke a 3-3 tie with four runs in the top half of the final three frames on Saturday afternoon before holding on for a 7-4, series-clinching victory over nonconference foe, Ball State, at the First Merchants Baseball Complex.
Redshirt senior Bryson Bowman belted his team-leading 10th home run as a part of a three-RBI performance, also driving in two on a pair of sacrifice flies. The Baton, N.C., product finished 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored in the win. Junior Brett Pope paced the squad with three hits including two singles and a double in a 3-for-5 outing. He extended his reached base safely streak to 15-straight games.
Senior Matt Smith drove in a run on a first inning double, finishing 2-for-3 with a walk. He, too, extended his double-digit reached base safely streak to 32-consecutive games, while Matthew Koehler stretched his streak to 11-straight games, drawing three walks and driving in a run on an infield ground out.
The two teams exchanged single runs through the first five innings with WCU grabbing a first-inning lead on back-to-back doubles only to see Ball State answer with runs in the home half of both the first and second innings to pull in front, 2-1. WCU responded in the top of the third as a two-out infield error cost the Cardinals a run as Nobu Suzuki singled through the left side to plate Smith and knot the game at two.
A Matt Eppers single in the bottom of the fourth pushed the home squad back in front, 3-2, before the Catamounts managed to again tie the game in the top of the fifth. Pope led off with a double to left before eventually scoring from third on Bowman's first sacrifice fly.
Tied at three through six innings, Western Carolina (26-24) pulled ahead for good in the seventh as Pope again reached to lead-off the frame. Andrew Robinson sacrificed Pope to second before a passed ball put him 90-feet away at third base. Bowman then collected the second of his three RBI on another sac fly, putting the Catamounts ahead, 4-3. An infield ground out by Cameron Blaquiere plated an insurance marker in the top of the eighth inning for WCU.
In the top of the ninth, the Catamounts scratched the scoreboard for the lone multi-run inning, lighting the scoreboard for a two-spot to make it 7-3 with three outs remaining. Bowman led-off with a solo homer before Matt Smith tallied his second double of the day, eventually scoring on an infield ground out by Koehler.
Two singles -- the second coming with two outs -- followed by a pair of walks produced a run for Ball State in the home portion of the ninth inning with Seth Freed drawing the free pass to plate a run that provided the final tally. However, Korey Anderson got a ground ball out on pinch hitter Joe Gunn to secure the win.
Catamount reliever Dylan Biumi (2-0) scored the victory out of the bullpen, limiting Ball State to just one run on two hits. The Cumming, Ga., native countered a pair of walks with four strikeouts. Anderson picked-up his team-high tying fourth save of the season, recording the final out of the ninth on a ground ball to strand the bases loaded.
Junior LHP Brendan Nail earned the starting nod for the Catamounts, limiting Ball State to three runs while scattering six hits over five innings. He countered five walks with six strikeouts including back-to-back K's looking to end his appearance in the fifth inning.
Ball State (27-24) reliever Nick Floyd (2-1) was saddled with the loss, tossing three innings out of the bullpen allowing two runs -- one earned -- on two hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Starter John Baker tossed 4.2 innings, scattering five hits with three runs -- two earned -- allowed, striking out one with three walks.
Outfielder Jeff Riedel (3-for-5) finished with three hits to pace Ball State, while Eppers and Caleb Stayton both tallied two hits apiece. Lead-off man Alex Maloney scored three of the Cardinals' four runs despite not recording a hit, reaching twice on walks and a fielder's choice.
The nonconference series finale is scheduled for Sunday afternoon with first pitch at 1:00 pm. Fans can listen to the game with live streaming audio from the Catamount Sports Network, online at CatamountSports.com.