May 27, 2004
Charleston, S.C. - After Western Carolina surrendered a one-run lead in the top of the ninth, Mike McGowan delivered a game-winning, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth to lead the eighth-seeded Catamounts (27-29) to a 7-6 victory over fourth-seed Elon (30-27) Thursday night in the second round of the 2004 Southern Conference Championship, played at Riley Park.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jared Greenwood drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Brian Sigmon's single through the right side of the infield. Denver Edick attempted to move the runners up on a bunt, and, thanks to a throwing error loaded the bases with no outs. Elon brought in its top closer Adam Acosta to face McGowan. With a ball and two strikes, McGowan drove Acosta's pitch down the right field line, bringing in Greenwood and Sigmon for the victory.
McGowan finished the night by going 2-for-5 with three RBI, while Greenwood, Sigmon and Edick each added two hits each. WCU junior Derrick Hawk picked up the win, improving to 4-4 on the season despite allowing Elon to take a one-run lead in the ninth. Hawk pitched the final 2.2 innings, surrendering three hits and two runs with four walks and two strikeouts.
Elon got on the board first, scoring two runs in the top of the third. As he did in the first inning, Gary Morris had a leadoff double down the left field line. However, unlike the first, Morris was able to score in the third when as Evan Tartaglia reached on an error. After a walk to Grant Rembert, Chris Price delivered an RBI single to left, bringing home Tartaglia.
Western answered in the bottom of the third tying the game with two runs. With two outs, Greenwood doubled to right field. Sigmon followed with an infield single, but a throwing error allowed Greenwood to score and put Sigmon on second. Edick then singled to center, plating Sigmon and tying the game.
Elon rallied in the top of the seventh off new WCU pitcher Brian McCullen, scoring two runs and making the score 5-4. Morris had a leadoff single and moved to third on a Tartaglia double to center. Rembert followed with a two-run single to center, cutting the Phoenix deficit to one. Rembert went to third on a ground out. However, on a pitch that was wild, Rembert tried to score but the Cats got a fortunate bounce off the backstop to retire Rembert on the attempted steal of home. The play was key as Drew Davis and Evan Erickson followed with back-to-back singles which would have tied the game. New WCU pitcher Hawk then got a ground out to keep the Cats in front by one.
The Phoenix put a runner on with one out in the top of the eighth, but Hawk was able to pick off a stumbling Paul Bennett. Morris then struck out to end the threat.
In the ninth, Elon took a one-run lead with one hit and four walks. Tartaglia walked and, after a fly out moved to second on a ground out. With two outs, Davis walked. Tartaglia took third and Davis later stole second. With a 2-2 count, Erickson came through with a two-run triple to put the Phoenix up 6-5. Hawk then walked consecutive batters to load the bases before striking out Chris Norwood to end the inning.
Caleb McConnell started for Western Carolina, pitching the first 6.0 innings. He only allowed five hits, two runs (one earned) and three walks with five strikeouts. However, he was forced to work hard over his six innings, throwing 109 pitches.
For Elon, Morris had three hits with Davis and Erickson adding two hits each. Brian Hensen started for the Phoenix, but did not factor in the decision, allowing nine hits and five runs (three earned) in 4.1 innings. Matt McSwain pitched well in 3.2 innings, but suffered the loss, falling to 4-4. Coming in with one out in the fifth, he did not allow a Catamount hit until Sigmon's in the ninth. However, McSwain, who struck out six, walked three, including Greenwood to start the ninth.
Western Carolina will face the winner of The Citadel/Davidson game, which started after WCU's victory over Elon. The winner's bracket final, featuring the Cats and either the Bulldogs or Wildcats, is set to begin at 4:30 pm on Friday.