The Western Carolina Catamount baseball team ended their season-long 11-game homestand last weekend by taking two from mountain-rival Appalachian State (7-3, 18-7, 11-13).
With the wins the Catamounts moved to 14-16 overall on the season and 8-6 in the Southern Conference, placing them in a tie for fourth in the league with Furman.
Head coach Todd Raleigh was pleased with the wins over ASU and the progress shown by his pitching staff.
“When you win the first two games of a series, you want to come in and win the third. It was kind of a let down and a disappointment that we couldn’t do that. But this weekend was a major positive for our bullpen,” explained Raleigh.
He added, “Their getting back on track was encouraging. It was a good for confidence building and hope to carry it over the rest of the season.”
In Sunday’s finale, the Catamounts rallied from two down in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, yet stranded two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the tenth in the ten inning, 13-11 loss.
Sophomore Ryan Foster was saddled with the loss after pitching three innings, surrendering two runs on four hits, and striking out one. Starter Jared Burton was again denied his team-high fifth win, lasting five innings and giving up eight earned runs on ten hits, fanning one.
Offensively, the Catamounts pounded out 14 hits, including five players with multiple-hit performances. Alan Beck led the way, going 3-for-4 including his 14th double of the season and team and conference leading 11th home run, which tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Junior Donovan Minero, who is tied with Beck with 11 homers, was 2-for-4 on the afternoon, scoring two and one RBI.
First-baseman Todd Buchanan belted his third home run of the season in the seventh pulling WCU to within two. His three RBIs led the team. Ben Rhoney and Ryan Schade rounded out the multiple-hit performers, going 2-for-5 and 3-for-5, respectively.
The Cats jumped on Mountaineer starter Ben Hager early, scoring three in the bottom of the first. However, Hager recovered, lasting eight innings giving up ten runs, nine earned, on 11 hits.
ASU rallied back in the second and third taking a 4-3 lead after three. They would go on to score five in the top of the sixth, seemingly breaking open a tie ball game. Yet, with Buchanan’s three-run blast in the seventh and Beck’s two-run homer in the ninth, WCU forced extra innings.
The Catamounts, who going into the weekend had lost five games on Saturday, picked up the double-header sweep over arch-rival Appalachian State, 7-3 and 18-7.
“Saturday woes definitely ended this weekend,” said a relieved Raleigh. “It was tough trying to figure out what was going on Saturday. We weren’t just losing, we had been getting pounded. But we played well this week.”
In game two, the Cats ended the App State threat early answering the Mountaineers two-spot in the top of the first with a 13-batter, nine-run second highlighted by Donovan Minero’s second grand slam of the season, his 11th home run to date, in the 18-7 drubbing of ASU.
Coupled with the great offensive performance by the Cats, which saw 18 runs scored on 18 hits, the emergence of the WCU bullpen was cause for celebration. Starter Dan Foley went three innings, allowing four runs on seven hits before being lifted in the fourth after facing four batters.
Sophomore Seth Foster entered the game in the fourth and ended the Appalachian threat. He also lasted three innings, allowing a solo run on one hit while striking out a game-high five. He picked up the win, his second on the year.
The final three innings were pitched by a combined effort from the pen. Both sophomore Joe Camac and senior Matt Price, who also sees time behind the plate for the Catamounts, were perfect, striking out the sides in the seventh and eighth.
Freshman Joe Mitchum had a rocky outing, surrendering two runs on three hits, and walking one before he retired the side to secure the win.
Sophomore Rod Goldston and Minero led the way for the Catamounts, both going 3-for-5. Goldston hit his second home run on the year and scored three runs on the day. Alan Beck went 2-for-3 on the day with a homer and three RBIs, while also drawing a pair of walks.
Catamount catcher freshman Brian Sigmon was also 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles. He scored three runs and drove in a pair.
The first game of the series saw last week’s Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week, sophomore Ryan Basner pitch seven and a third scoreless innings to pick up his third win of the season. He scattered six hits while striking out five and walking three in the 7-3 victory.
It was Basner’s first win of the season as a starting pitcher.
“Basner did an incredible job. He gave us what we needed, and that was a real quality start,” Raleigh said.
Appalachian was held scoreless until a three-run ninth ended the Cats shutout. Sophomore Ryan Foster surrendered the three runs in an inning and two-thirds action, striking out a duo.
Offensively, Ramseur, NC native Rod Goldston was 4-for-5 in the game, including his 14th double, with an RBI and run scored. Buchanan was a perfect 4-for-4 with four singles, one run scored and an RBI.
WCU scored three in the first and a pair in the second, which was all they’d need to move ahead of Appalachian.
The Catamounts travel to league-leading Citadel, who is ranked 23rd, this weekend for a three-game conference series kicking off Friday.