Greenville, S.C. - Top-seeded Western Carolina hit five home runs including two by senior Tyler White and back-to-back round-trippers by juniors Aaron Attaway and Julian Ridings in the fourth inning as the Catamounts claimed a 13-7 win over No. 8 seed Samford on Wednesday afternoon at the Southern Conference Baseball Championship at Fluor Field.
A third junior, catcher Adam Martin also homered to jump start the offense for the 29th-ranked Catamounts (39-18), who matched their season high in homers set less than a week ago in a 23-5 win over Appalachian State. WCU's win also snapped a seven-game losing skid for the Catamounts at Fluor Field that dated back to the 2009 season and including four-straight SoCon tournament losses at the Upstate facility.
Western Carolina advances to face No. 4 seed The Citadel - which used a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to upend No. 5 seed Appalachian State - on Thursday at 5:00 pm or 8:30 pm depending upon the result of the No. 6 Furman vs. No. 3 Elon game. A Furman win would put WCU into the last game on Thursday (approximately 8:30 pm) while an Elon victory would land the Catamounts in the 5:00 pm game.
Samford (27-29) faces the Mountaineers in the first elimination game at 10:00 am Thursday.
Western Carolina scored in five of the eight innings in which it batted in jumping out to a 5-1 lead and eventually leading by as many as 10 runs late. The Catamounts scored their first seven runs all with two-outs in each inning.
White, the media's pick for SoCon Player of the Year, homered in consecutive innings, putting one off a window of the building beyond the Green Monster in left field in the seventh inning and clearing the wall in left-center in the eighth. His second blast gave WCU a 13-3 lead.
After Samford took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on C.K. Irby's RBI double, WCU answered in the bottom half of the frame with Martin's three-run bomb. It was Martin's second multi-RBI home run in his last two games, and his third homer in his last five outings.
The Catamounts extended their lead on White's two-run, ground-rule double in the second inning, which made it 5-1. The two-base hit was the 26th of the season for White matching the program's single-season record established by former Catamount standout Rod Goldston back in 2003.
Samford got a run back on Irby's RBI groundout in the third and got within two runs on Brandon Haarer's RBI single in the fourth.
Western Carolina continued to apply the pressure, however, with Attaway and Ridings mashing consecutive monster homers in the fourth to restore the four-run lead. Attaway put his off the building beyond the Green Monster, while Ridings' towering blast just stayed fair down the right-field line.
Those were the first of eight-straight runs for Western Carolina, which got White's solo shot in the seventh before putting up a 5-spot in the eighth.
Luke Gragg got the eighth-inning outburst starting with an RBI single before Attaway turned in a two-run triple, Ridings lifted a sacrifice fly to center and White went deep for the second time.
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the ninth on three RBI singles and a sac fly for the final margin.
For WCU, Attaway was 4-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs, missing the cycle by a double. White was 3-for-5 with four RBIs, and Ridings, Martin and Cody Jones had two hits each.
Patrick McGavin went 4-for-5 to lead Samford at the plate, while Irby was 1-for-4 with three RBIs. Zeth Stone was 3-for-5 with two runs scored and Phillip Ervin and Drew McWhorter had two hits apiece.
WCU's Jeremy Null improved to 9-2 on the season, limiting Samford to just three runs - only two of which were earned - on eight hits in seven innings. All-Freshman team selection Jonathan Waszak tossed an inning and a third out of the bullpen before running into trouble in the ninth with sophomore Tyler Powell striking out the final two batters to end the game and secure the victory for the Catamounts. Samford starter Eric Wright (5-4) took the loss, surrendering seven runs on seven hits, lasting just three and two-thirds innings.