May 14, 2011
Greenville, S.C. - Austin Schultz scored on a wild pitch in the top of the 16th inning to break a 6-6 deadlock and ignite an eight-run Western Carolina outburst, and the Catamounts survived a furious seven-run rally in Furman's last at bat to claim a 14-13 victory in Southern Conference baseball action Friday evening at Latham Stadium.
First pitch of Saturday's game two has been backed up to a 6 pm start time at Latham Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with air time at 5:45 pm and can be heard online at www.CatamountSports.com.
The two squads battled to a 3-3 tie through 13 innings before the Catamounts managed to plate three in the top of the 14th inning.
Consecutive infield singles by Matt Johns and Cameron Dullnig put two aboard ahead of Luke Gragg who singled on the first pitch of his at bat, scoring Johns from second base to give the Catamounts the lead back, 4-3. Freshman Cody Jones then drove in a run with a pinch hit single deep in the hole at second to score Dullnig with Ross Heffley plating the third run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to center for a 6-3 advantage.
In the bottom of the frame, catcher Paul Nitto belted a lead-off home run to trim the margin back to one, 3-2, with Will Muzika scoring the game-tying run on a fielder's choice on a would-be double-play.
The game remained deadlocked until the Catamounts again managed a three-spot in the top of the 14th inning. Back-to-back infield singles by Johns and Dullnig put two on aboard ahead of Luke Gragg who singled to drive in the go-ahead run. Freshman Cody Jones delivered a pinch hit RBI single to stretch the lead to two and Ross Heffley lifted a sacrifice fly to center to scratch out a third run for a 6-3 lead.
Down to its final out and with runners at the corners in the home half of the 14th, Nitto blasted a 1-0 pitch over the center field fence to tie the game at six, continuing extra innings.
In the top of the 16th, Schultz drew a lead-off walk before capitalizing on a sacrifice bunt and two wild pitches. Paladin pitcher Stephen Gary's first toss on the intentional walk to Heffley sailed to the back stop allowing Schultz to third. The second errant toss to home allowed Schultz to scamper home for the 7-6 WCU lead.
A two-run Matt Johns double off Paladin reliever Matt Plate and a two-run Cody Jones single off Plate's replacement, Mike Waller, keyed the eight-run rally that gave the Catamounts what appeared to be a secure 14-6 lead.
However, Furman mounted a feverish rally in the bottom of the frame, closing to within a run before the Catamounts were able to shut the door and pick up the win. Taylor Johnson doubled to left to open the bottom of the 16th before Nitto was plunked to put two aboard. Muzika then singled to short to load the bases. The Paladins took full advantage of full base paths with Will Miller delivering a RBI single and Will Owens driving in one. The big hit of the inning came off the bat of Thompkins who dropped in a two RBI single to left.
With WCU clinging to a two-run lead, 14-12, Nitto drove in his fifth run of the game with a RBI single through the right side to close the gap to just one. However, Taylor Sandefur got Muzika to bounce to the right side where Heffley recorded the final out and secure the victory for the Catamounts.
All told, the two teams combined to throw 16 different pitchers with 27 runs coming on 44 hits through the game which lasted nearly six hours once it got underway following an hour-long weather delay.
Furman's inability to convert scoring opportunities, coupled with outstanding defensive work by Western Carolina, in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings extended the contest.
In the eighth Schultz's diving grab at third base on a smash off Muzika's bat led to an inning ending force play at second base that stranded two Paladin base runners.
Furman stranded two more runners on base in the ninth, and in the 10th Catamount shortstop Aaron Attaway snared a blistering line drive by Muzika and stepped on second base for an inning ending double play.
Furman's frustration continued in the 11th after putting the first two batters on base. Following a sacrifice, Will Owens walked to load the bases with one out, but Hunter Burton popped out on a bunt attempt and Aaron Thompkins was nipped at first base on a throw from third to keep it a 3-3 game.
Furman (20-29, 10-14 SoCon) claimed the early 1-0 lead in the fourth inning as Thompkins doubled down the right field line and was later driven in on a double-play turned by the middle of the Catamount infield.
WCU rallied in the top of the seventh as White reached on a single up the middle and was plated two batters later on a RBI double down the right field line by Dullnig to tie the game at one. Attaway drove home on a sacrifice fly to hand the Catamounts their first lead of the game with Gragg delivering a run-scoring single up the middle to plate Dullnig for the 3-1 advantage.
However, in the bottom of the frame, Nitto led off with a solo homer to center field with Muzika scoring on a fielder's choice as WCU attempted to turn a double-play in the middle of the infield, recording just the force out at second, leaving the game tied at three and eventually forcing extra innings.
White, Johns and Dullnig each posted three hits in the win to pace the Catamounts while Jones led the team with three RBI.
Seemingly lost in the 16-inning marathon was the performance of both starting pitchers, both of which factored in no-decisions after leaving well before the eventual mid-way point of the game. WCU senior Matt Benedict surrendered three earned runs on nine hits with a game-high six strikeouts in the starting effort for the Catamounts while Furman's Bobby Lyne scattered five base hits and allowed three runs in seven frames, working around two walks with four strikeouts.
Sophomore reliever T.J. Page (1-0) picked up the win for the Catamounts, tossing an inning and a third and allowing three runs on four hits with a strikeout. Classmate Taylor Sandefur picked up his first save of the season by finishing the 16th on two thirds of an inning.