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Eastern Kentucky Pulls Away from Western Carolina, 10-5

Justin Sparks reached base three times on Tuesday including a single and pair of walks.
Justin Sparks reached base three times on Tuesday including a single and pair of walks.

May 15, 2018

Box Score

Richmond, Ky. - Western Carolina plated two runs in both the top of the fourth and fifth innings to tie Tuesday's nonconference meeting with Eastern Kentucky at five apiece through five complete innings. However, the Colonels pushed across four runs on four-consecutive, one-out base hits including a third home run of the afternoon to pull away from the Catamounts to win 10-5 at Earle Combs Stadium.

EKU (27-26) used a two-run home run by Alex Holderbach in the first inning and a three-run blast by Daniel Harris IV in the home half of the second to grab a 5-1 lead through two complete. However, as senior side-winding left-hander Corey Sikes (0-4) settled into a groove, the offense came to life to rally the Catamounts back into the game.

As he did in the second inning with a one-out single, redshirt sophomore Justin Sparks ignited the rally with a two-out walk in the fourth followed by a Matthew Koehler single and a bases-loading HBP to Caleb Robinson. Redshirt sophomore transfer Colton Henthorne then laced a sharp single up the middle that clipped EKU pitcher Kaven Brown's glove but carried into center field, scoring two.

A lead-off single by Will Prater in the top of the fifth resulted in a run as red-hot hitting Spencer Holcomb belted a double to the wall in left to plate the speedy freshman with Holcomb ending up on third base after one of EKU's two fielding errors. Holcomb's classmate Cameron Blaquiere drove in the game-tying run on a productive ground out to the right side making it 5-5.

However, following a nearly 40-minute weather delay, the Colonels collected back-to-back doubles and a run-scoring single to push across two runs before Cornell Nixon hit a two-run homer to left center to cap a four-run sixth-inning barrage leaving EKU ahead, 9-5. The home squad tacked on an insurance marker in the eighth, capitalizing on a two-out walk and WCU's second error of the game to provide the final tally.

Sikes (0-4) battled through a career-long, 6.1 innings in the starting role, climbing the mound at the start of the game for a third time in the past two weeks. He settled in to retire 11-straight at one point including the third out of the second inning followed by three-straight, 1-2-3 frames. He got the dangerous Holderbach to fly out to right to start the sixth inning before the Colonels started their decisive rally. All told, the Monroe, N.C., native struck out two with a walk, surrendering nine earned runs on 10 hits.

Classmate Jake Niezen tossed an inning and two-thirds of one-hit relief, allowing an unearned run while countering a walk with a pair of strikeouts out of the bullpen.

Three Catamounts finished with two-hit games with Holcomb stretching his reached base safely streak to 23-consecutive that includes an 11-game hitting streak, finishing 2-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored. Holcomb has collected five-straight, multi-hit games -- and his ninth during the active 11-game hit streak. Outfielders Koehler and freshman Bryson Parks finished 2-for-4 with Koehler's bunt single and subsequent throwing error plating WCU's first run in the second inning as Sparks rumbled around to score from first on the play. Parks collected his second-straight, two-hit game with a pair of singles.

Sparks reached base three times with a single and two walks while Henthorne reached twice including his two-RBI single and a base on balls.

EKU reliever Logan Teague (6-5) -- the third Colonel pitcher in the game -- secured the victory by scattering three hits over two innings, recording two of EKU's 11 strikeouts. Starter Kaven Brown was chased after 4.2 innings, allowing five runs -- three earned -- on seven hits with four strikeouts against two walks.

Offensively, EKU hit three home runs with Harris recording a team-high three RBI. Three Colonels tallied two-hit games in Ryland Kerr (2-for-5), Tyler Romanik (2-for-4), and Logan Stephens (2-for-4) with Romanik doubling.

Western Carolina (7-43) travels to Morehead, Ky., for a late afternoon match-up with Morehead State (31-21) on Wednesday with first pitch scheduled for 4:00 pm. The Catamounts earned their first seasonal victory over the Eagles at home, 6-2, back on Feb. 20. Wednesday's game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio available online through, and live updates through social media on Twitter using the handle, @Catamounts.