Muncie, Indiana - Trailing by six after the home half of the first inning on Sunday afternoon, Western Carolina baseball was able to claw back to within two runs, 8-6, through four complete. It would, however, be as close as the Catamounts would get as Ball State prevented the series sweep, claiming the series finale on its Senior Day, 13-6, at the First Merchants Baseball Complex.
Senior Matt Smith hit a three-run homer in the top of the third inning as a part of a 1-for-5 day, cutting the early deficit in half, 6-3. Then, trailing 8-3 in the top of the fourth, Spencer Holcomb keyed a three-run frame with a two-run shot as WCU closed the margin to two, 8-6.
Ball State (28-24) pushed the game out of reach, though with a three-run fifth and two in the home half of the seventh to provide the final tally at 13-6. Reliever Brendan Burns (4-2) silenced the Catamount offense over five and a third scoreless innings to earn the win, allowing just two base hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
Smith extended his reached base safely streak to 33-consecutive with his third inning homer, while both Brett Pope and Matthew Koehler stretched their double-digit reached base streaks to 16 and 12, respectively. Pope finished 1-for-4 with a walk while Koehler also drew a free pass in the loss.
Holcomb reached three times with his eighth homer of the season, adding a HBP -- his fourth of the weekend -- and a walk. Redshirt senior Bryson Bowman finished 1-for-5 with a RBI single in the fourth inning.
Freshman Andrew Robinson singled twice in the only multi-hit performance for WCU, finishing 2-for-5 on the afternoon.
Returning from a back injury and scheduled for a pitch count in a short start -- his first since April 29 at Samford -- sophomore Tristan Baker (4-3) was victimized by three walks and four hits, saddled with six earned runs in just two thirds of an inning of work. Senior Chad Mabini struck out one in two and a third innings of relief while classmate B.J. Nobles fanned four against four walks in four innings of work. Senior Korey Anderson tossed the final frame, striking out two in an inning of one-hit, scoreless relief.
Offensively for Ball State, six players tallied multi-hit games including outfielder Roman Baisa who finished 3-for-3 with two walks and three RBI. Seth Freed posted a 2-for-5 outing, also driving in three, with Sean Kennedy going 2-for-4 with three RBI and three runs scored for the Cardinals.
Western Carolina (26-25) returns home on Tuesday for its final home game of the regular season, hosting Presbyterian (27-25) in nonconference action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 pm.