Western Carolina blew out Furman 11-3 Sunday on the strength of five Catamount home runs to sweep the Paladins in a weekend series at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium.
The conference sweep was the second in as many weeks as the Cats swept Appalachian State the weekend before in Boone, the first time the squad has achieved two straight sweeps in the SoCon in three years.
Furman (10-19, 3-9) grabbed a brief lead in the top of the second inning Sunday when Drew Latora hit a lead-off home run to put the Paladins up one.
The Cats (18-8, 9-3) would not wait long to answer, however, putting up six runs in the second to post all the offense it would need. Junior first baseman Todd Buchanan led off the inning with a home run of his own. Senior center fielder Donovan Minero made it back-to-back home runs with a solo shot of his own to center.
One batter later, Freshman third baseman Clint Ramsey then blasted a two-run shot to provide the winning margin in only the second inning. Western would put up two more runs in the inning.
Minero and junior left fielder Alan Beck continued the onslaught of long balls with back-to-back solo home runs two innings later. The lead was now 9-2 and Western would cruise the rest of the way.
Despite putting up a run in the fourth and one in the ninth, FU never came closer than five runs. Senior starting pitcher Dan Foley (2-1) got the win going seven innings and allowing only one earned run on five hits.
Minero led the Cats on offense going 4-for-5, including his ninth and tenth home runs of the year, a total that leads the Southern Conference. He ended the day with three RBI and three runs scored.
Buchanan, senior shortstop Ryan Schade and sophomore second baseman Todd Roper each had two hits as the Catamounts piled up 15 hits as a team.
Saturday’s game proved to be much more of a struggle for the Cats, as they needed four runs in the final three innings to put down FU.
Buchanan began the scoring in the first inning with the first of his three hits, an RBI-single scoring Schade.
Furman came back to take the lead in the next inning, however, as three straight Paladin singles to open the second loaded the bases. All three runs would score following a fielder’s choice, throwing error, and a Cole Hubka double as FU built a 3-1 lead.
The lead increased to 4-1 in the sixth inning when Ryan Presnell slapped a two-out double to score Derek Norman.
Western finally picked up its offense in the sixth when Minero hit a single to left to score Beck, who began the inning reaching on an error. Buchanan, who had double Beck to third, scored when Ramsey hit into a double play.
The seventh inning saw Furman again space itself from the Cats with two more runs, one on a Clint Hill double to score Brandon Barret and again when Hill stole third and then reached on a Catamount error.
Refusing to yield, WCU stayed close with two runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead back down to one at 6-5. Junior right fielder Rod Goldston and Schade both managed one-out singles. A Buchanan single and a Furman wild pitch would score both runners.
Western Carolina managed to tie the game in the eighth inning when Roper hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score freshman pinch hitter Chris Davis.
The sacrifice fly would again come to the aid of the Cats in the bottom of the ninth, with the contest knotted at 6-6. Western would load the bases with nobody out after Schade hit a triple to start the inning and two intentional walks by the Furman pitching staff. Minero hit the game-winner as he connected with a sacrifice fly to left to score Schade.
Buchanan went 3-for-4 on the day with a double and two RBI. Schade managed a 3-for-5 performance with three runs scored, including the game-winner, while sophomore designated hitter Doug Myers was a perfect 3-for-3 against Furman pitching.
Junior reliever Ryan Basner (1-1) got the win by shutting out the Paladins over the final two innings, allowing two hits and striking out one. Junior starter Seth Foster was not able to pick up the win, but remains a perfect 5-0 on the year.
Western opened the series on Friday overcoming an early 3-1 Paladin advantage to beat out Furman going away 8-3. The Cats scored six runs in their final four innings and Junior hurlers Jared Burton and Ryan Foster shut out FU over the final six innings in the win.
Goldston, Schade, Minero and Davis all had three hits on the day as WCU had 17 hits on the day. Despite stranding nine men on base and hitting into three double plays, the Catamount offensive attack proved too much for Furman.
Burton (5-2) went eight innings allowing only three runs and striking out four for the win. Foster closed out the game striking out two of the three batters he faced for a perfect ninth.
The series sweep extended the current WCU win streak to eight games, including a perfect 5-0 on their current nine-game home stand. They have also won eight of nine games in conference play to jump into a tie for third in the conference.
They will close out their home stand this weekend with their biggest series to date, a three-game set with Southern Conference frontrunner The Citadel (16-11, 10-2). A sweep of the perennial conference power will give the Cats at least a share of the conference lead.