Western Carolina captured its fourth straight league series last weekend against East Tennessee State at Hennon Stadium. After stealing the opening game 9-8, the Cats finished off the three-game set with an 8-7 victory on the strength of sophomore Donovan Minero’s bat.
WCU (19-19, 12-8) held off a late-inning surge by the Bucs (15-23, 7-11) to win the rubber game of the weekend series 8-7. Minero led the offensive attack for the Catamounts with a career-high five RBIs.
ETSU got on the board first by plating two against Western starting pitcher and eventual winner Ryan Basner (4-6). The Cats answered in the bottom half of the inning when Minero blasted his 12th home run of the season, a three-run shot, to give his squad their first lead of the day.
The Bucs came back in the very next inning with a single run to knot the score at three before Western began to break the game open. In the bottom half of the fourth, freshman Michael Roane and freshman Todd Roper led off the scoring with back-to-back doubles to plate the first run.
Roper then moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sophomore Rod Goldston ground out. Sophomore Todd Buchanan kept the inning alive with a two-out single and was doubled in by Minero to give the Catamounts a 6-3 lead.
The Cats would add two more and enter the ninth with a comfortable 8-4 lead. East Tennessee would put up three runs in the ninth and had a runner on second before reliever sophomore Ryan Foster forced a ground out to end the game.
Minero finished the game going 2-for-4 with five RBIs and a run. Goldston and Roane both notched three hits in four appearances, scoring three runs between them.
Basner earned his fourth win of the year with a season-high seven and a third innings pitched. He gave up four runs, all earned, and struck out one. Foster earned his third save of the season in the relief effort.
Junior Ryan Schade had a five RBI-effort of his own Friday afternoon as Western kicked off the series with a 9-8 triumph. Goldston served as the hero, however, as he pulled back a bunt and singled to left to drive in Roper for the game-winning run in the bottom half of the eighth.
ETSU jumped out to an early lead, taking a 6-2 lead after their half of the fourth, on the strength of two straight two-run innings. The Cats would finally awaken in the fifth inning, scoring four runs to knot the score at seven runs a piece.
After Alan Beck reached on an error and scored on a passed ball, Schade hit his first career home run, a three-run bomb. Each squad would add a run to tie the game at eight before Goldston’s clutch game-winning hit in the bottom of the eighth.
Foster (2-3) picked up the win, shutting out the Bucs over the final two and two thirds innings, giving up only one hit and striking out two.
Schade earned his career-high five RBIs on the strength of two hits on three appearances. Minero was three-for-five, while Roper and Goldston each had two hits.
The Bucs won the Saturday game 9-5 on the strength of a four-run ninth. Western scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth on the strength of Alan Beck’s 12th home run of the season. ETSU reliever Jackson Simmerly would force a ground out and pop out, however, to end the Catamount threat.
Sophomore right-hander Seth Foster fell to 3-2 on the season, giving up eight hits and five runs while striking out four in six and a third innings pitched. Roper and Buchanan led the Western bats with two hits and an RBI each, while Beck picked up two walks and two runs in addition to his home run.
Last week, Western traveled to Atlanta to take on Georgia State (16-21) for a two-game set. They fell Tuesday, April 10, in the opening contest 4-3 but redeemed themselves with a 13-7 win on Wednesday.
Buchanan led the way with a career-high five hits in the WCU win. Georgia State looked to sweep the series at the on-set, scoring a run in each of the first innings to take the early lead.
The Cats would tie the game in the third as Roper was walked and doubled in by Buchanan. Buchanan was thrown out at the plate to end the inning, but not before Goldston would score to even the score.
Western would then take the lead on the strength of a four-run fifth. Beck and Buchanan crossed the plate on a single by freshman Brian Sigmon. Junior Matt Price then hit a two-run homer to give his squad a four-run advantage.
They would put the game away for good in the ninth, scoring six runs to cushion their lead. Schade and Goldston both hit bases loaded, two-run singles, and Roper would notch a two-run double to account for the six Western tallies.
Junior Jeff Skinner pitched two and a third innings of middle relief to pick up a win in his first decision of the year. In addition to Price, four WCU batters had multiple-hit games.
Roper, Goldston, Price, and Schade each recorded two hits a piece. Price drove in three, while the other three had two RBIs a piece.
Georgia State opened the series edging out Western 4-3 in a game dominated by both pitching staffs. GSU’s Ronnie Robinson pitched a complete game, giving up only one earned run and striking out five. Meanwhile, Basner and Foster combined for eight strikeouts and only two earned runs.
Western led the game until the a two-run sixth by the Eagles knotted the game at three. In the eighth, however, Georgia State’s Michael Nelson would come home on a Foster wild pitch for the game-winning run.
Minero, Beck, and Roane all notched two hits, while Todd Roper had the lone RBI for the Catamounts on his only hit of the day.
Next up for Western is a trip to Asheville to take on the Bulldogs of UNCA on Wednesday, April 18, at 3:00pm. The Cats will then travel to Furman the following weekend for a critical three-game series. The Paladins are sitting at fifth place currently with an 11-9 mark in league play, only one full game below the fourth-place Catamounts.