Greenville, S.C. - No. 2 Western Carolina's offense was stymied by sixth-seeded Samford as the Bulldogs limited the potent Catamount attack to four singles in eliminating the defending event champion from the 2017 Southern Conference Baseball Championship, presented by Holston Gases, with a 6-1 victory Thursday evening at Fluor Field.
Samford (32-25) saw five players post three-hit games as the Bulldogs rebounded from a morning loss to third-seeded UNCG, advancing to within one win of making it to the semifinals for a fourth-straight season. Samford will face either top-seeded Mercer or No. 4 Furman on Friday at 3:30 pm.
Western Carolina (28-28) went two-and-out in its bid to defend its 2016 title. The Catamounts had been seeking to extend their league record to 11 championships, currently holding a conference-record 23 combined titles including 13 regular season crowns and a conference-best 10 tournament titles.
Sophomore DH Andrew Bullock led the Catamount attack with a pair of singles in a 2-for-3 performance at the plate, with the other two base knocks coming from redshirt sophomore Matthew Koehler and true freshman Andrew Robinson, who also reached on a walk in the loss. Senior Matt Smith was unable to extend his career-long reached base safely streak, concluding his career having reached base in 37-straight games.
Pinch running for Bullock later in the going, senior J.D. Long reached base with an HBP in his first game action in over a month since dealing with an oblique injury. SoCon Player of the Year Bryson Bowman also drew an HBP, finishing the season by reaching base in 13-straight games. Bowman, who finished hitless on Thursday, did manage to record base hits in 49 of WCU's 56 games on the year while reaching base in an impressive 55 of those 56 contests.
Junior infielder Cameron Blaquiere knocked in WCU's lone run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning as Samford scored the final six runs of the contest. A three-run third was the difference as Ayrton Schafer's RBI single tied the game and Austin Edens' run-scoring double put the Bulldogs on top for good. Schafer then scored on Jordan Fucci's grounder that resulted in an error.
Samford added a run in the fourth on Branden Fryman's RBI infield single, and the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on the scoring with Troy Dixon's RBI single and a dropped fly ball in left that allowed Dixon to score.
Mikhail Cazenave, who earned the final SoCon Pitcher of the Week award of the season, picked up where he left off last week, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk in six innings of work to improve to 5-7.
His counterpart, Brendan Nail (6-8), struck out seven to join senior Bryan Sammons with 100 strikeouts on the year. The Greensboro, N.C., native limited Samford to just four runs on 11 hits and two walks in six innings. Senior relievers B.J. Nobles and Korey Anderson also toed the rubber one final time for the Purple & Gold on Thursday evening.
Fryman, Schafer, Edens, Dixon and Kevin Williams Jr. had three hits each for the Bulldogs, who dropped a 6-3 decision to UNCG in Thursday's 9 a.m. contest to drop into the losers' bracket.