Diamond Cats Handle Aggies at Home

Western Carolina swept a three-game series from North Carolina A&T last weekend at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium. After going into extra innings to capture the first game, WCU won the final two games by a combined total of 20 runs.

The Catamounts tallied 45 hits and 40 runs in all over the trio of games while their pitching held A&T to just 19 runs. The sweep takes the Cats two games over .500 overall for the first time this season, including wins in four of their last five contests.

Sunday, Western took the field looking for their first sweep of the season. Getting off to a quick start, the WCU posted two runs in the bottom of the first. Michael Roane led off with a single and was doubled home by Todd Buchanan. Brian Sigmon followed with a double of his own to give the Cats an early two-run lead.

Two innings later, a four-run third provided the Catamounts with all the offense they would need. Sigmon began the barrage with a double to center.

Ben Rhoney, Matt Price, and Todd Roper followed him with singles. Roper would later score advancing on consecutive wild pitches.

Western would go on to add a pair of runs in the fifth, quickly answering an Aggie two-run fifth, and another insurance score in the seventh. Meanwhile, the Catamount pitching held A&T scoreless over the final four innings.

Price led the Catamount bats with a career-high four hits in five at-bats, scoring three times. Sigmon and Ryan Schade each pitched in three hits and an RBI, while Roane and Roper had two hits and two RBI each.

Six pitchers converged to shut down the Aggie offensive attack. Joe Mitcham (1-0), making his first career start after six relief appearances this season, pitched the first four innings to earn the win, giving up one unearned run and striking out four.

After Jeff Skinner allowed a pair of runs in the fifth, Ryan Basner, Joe Camac, Dan Foley, and Ryan Foster each pitched a scoreless inning to finish off the game.

Saturday, the Cats swept their second doubleheader in three tries this year as they won two from the Aggies 13-12, 18-4 at Hennon Stadium.

In the first affair, A&T used a late burst of offense to extend the game to ten innings before Western was able to put them away in the extra frame.

The Cats took control of the game early and were in control for most of the contest. Clinging to a slim 3-2 lead heading to the bottom of the second, WCU used a six-run, two-out rally to blow the game open.

The first two innings saw Sigmon notch two doubles and four RBI, while Price hit a two-run home run. Additionally, Buchanan accounted for three RBI with a double and a walk.

Refusing to yield A&T began to chip away at the lead with two runs in the third and a single run in both the sixth and seventh innings. Entering the top of the ninth, however, the Aggies still trailed 10-6.

Quincy Jones and Patrick Battle each cracked home runs in the top of the frame on the way to a five-run A&T ninth that gave them a one-run lead. Maintaining his composure, Buchanan hit a long ball of his own, his fourth of the year, to force the extra frame.

After allowing a single Aggie run in the top half, Western entered the bottom of the tenth trailing 12-11. Rhoney led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice.

Roane then tied the game up with an RBI single and moved to third after a pair of Aggie mistakes. He would score after A&T catcher Justin Hall failed to tag him out on a Donovan Minero ground ball.

Sigmon led the way for Western offensively going 4-for-5 with four RBI. Buchanan finished with four RBI as well off of tow-for-two hitting and three walks.

Robbie Hoover (3-4) earned the win for the Cats after coming on in the tenth and allowing no runs or hits. Jared Burton was denied the decision after giving up five runs in six innings of work with four strikeouts in the start.

Western did not make the second game as interesting, burying the Aggies 18-4 in seven innings to take the second game of the doubleheader.

Minero rewrote the WCU record books in this contest, driving in a school record nine runs. Minero tallied the nine RBI after belting three home runs, driving his Southern Conference-leading total to 15, including his third grand slam of the season.

The Cats scored at least one run in all six innings they came to the plate, including their second straight six-run second in addition to a five-run sixth.

In addition to Minero, Roane feasted on Aggie pitching for three hits, four runs, and a pair of RBI. Rhoney and Schade each had two hits with Schade driving in three runs of his own.

Foley (5-2) pitched two and two thirds innings of scoreless relief for the win, recording five of his eight outs with strikeouts.

Overall, Raleigh was pleased with the way his team played against, in his words, a very underrated NC A&T squad.

“I thought we played good,” he said. “A&T is a lot better than what a lot of people think. They already beat Maryland and they beat Duke.”

He added that the way his team responded after a slow start in the first game was very encouraging for his team.

“I think we were a little sluggish Saturday in the first game,” he said. “But I think we showed a lot of character and came back and played really well in te second game on Saturday and played really well Sunday.”

Western will travel to UNC Asheville for the fourth and final meeting of the two clubs today at 3:00 p.m. The Catamounts have won all three prior meetings this season convincingly, outscoring the Bulldogs 44-18 so far this year.