Long ball propels Catamounts past Huskies

Western Carolina Baseball started off its 1st home series of the year with a bang. Western defeated the Connecticut Huskies twice over the weekend of February 23-25. Despite losing the 2nd game of the series, the Catamounts scored 29 runs over the 3 games to improve their record to 4-and-2 on the season. During the 1st game Friday afternoon, Western knocked 4 balls out of the park, and held on during a shaky 9th inning to preserve a 16-5 victory in front of 803 fans at Hennon Stadium. Western got the run parade started in the 1st inning after Jason Haynes led off the inning with a base on balls. Three batters later, Jonathan Greene extended his hitting streak that he started last season to 17 games with an RBI single. Unfortunately that would be all the runs the Catamounts could push across in the inning as a strikeout and a double-play would strand the runners. Catamount miscues, a pair of walks and a catcher’s interference would lead to a pair of Connecticut runs coming in to take a one run lead, 2-1. Western’s 1st long ball of the game came in the bottom half of the inning as Senior John Ingram led off the inning with a single, followed by Asheville, NC native Kenny Smith’s first homer of the season to regain the advantage, 3-2. In the next 2 innings Western would once again add to their lead courtesy of the long ball as freshman Nick Liles belted his 1st collegiate home run, a 3-run shot for a 6-2 lead. Two innings later, Smith would come up to the plate and knock his 2nd home run of the day. Greene would continue the parade with a solo shot to begin a 3-run inning, as back-to-back singles by Liles and Blake Murphy put themselves in scoring position with 2 outs and would come around to score a fielding error by the Huskies. The Catamounts added 4 more runs in the bottom of the 8th and held on for the win, despite giving up 3 runs in the 9th inning. Junior, Tyler Sexton, got his 2nd win of the season by throwing 6 solid innings allowing a pair of runs on 3 hits to go along with 4 walks while striking out 4. Sophomore Corey Martin came in relief for 2 solid innings, scattering 2 hits while striking out a pair. Junior Andrew Larrimore came in to pitch the 9th giving up 3 runs with a pair of walks and strikeouts. Smith, Greene, Murphy and Liles each went 2-for-3 on the day. Junior Barrett Shaft’s 22-game hitting streak came to an end with a 0-for-3 showing at the plate. The 2nd game in the series did not go the way that Catamounts would like for it to have gone as Connecticut pitching would handcuff the Western batters and allow just a single run as the Catamounts fall 8-1 in front 483 fans at Hennon Stadium. UConn got on the scoreboard first by scoring 2 runs on a double from Matt Untiet. The Huskies added 2 more in the top of the 3rd for the 2-0 lead. UConn’s Larry Day extended the lead to 4 with a 2-run homer. Matt Karl blasted his 1st collegiate home run for the 6-0 lead after 6 innings. Western’s lone run on the day would come courtesy of a Kenny Smith homer to left field to trim the lead to 6-1. The Huskies added on 2 more off Western reliever Daniel Ottone, to finish the day with an 8-1 victory. Western’s Brock Thornburg fell to 1-1 on the season by allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in 3 innings of work. Relievers Ottone and Tyler Johnson each gave up a pair of runs apiece while combining for 5 strikeouts. Smith led the Catamounts in hitting by going 2-for-4 on the day while Barrett Shaft went a perfect 2-for-2. Despite going 1-for-4, Jonathan Greene extended his team-best hitting streak to 18 games. The Catamounts offensive production would return for the series finale in the fashion of pounding out 17 hits en route to a 12-1 defeat of the Huskies, who could only muster 4 hits in the entire game. Western would break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the 3rd as Freshman Brent Greer would record his 1st collegiate hit and score on a Jason Haynes single for the 1-0 advantage. Jonathan Greene would reach base on a single to left field that would send Haynes to 3rd; both players would score on a 2-run double to right field by Blake Murphy, extending their lead to 3 (3-0) after 3 innings. The next inning, the Catamounts would extend their lead thanks to Kenny Smith’s 4th homer of the series, a solo homer to left field for a 4-0 lead. UConn would get their 1st and only run of the game in the top of the 5th on a solo homer from Josh Farkes to cut the lead to 4-1. The bottom half saw Western add 3 more runs to their cause courtesy of the long ball as Greene blasted a 2-run homer to right field, scoring Haynes from 1st. The Catamounts got their other run as Murphy reached base on a walk and would eventually score on a double-play by UConn. Western would cash in on a Huskies’ error in the 7th, but not before Steven Strausbaugh’s RBI single to bring in Greene for the 3rd time in the game. Murphy would also score on the play as an errant throw from UConn’s catcher went over the 3rd baseman’s head in an attempt to gun down Murphy. Western was not done as Nick Liles reached base on his 1st hit of the day to bring in Strausbaugh, and extended the lead to 9, 10-1. The Catamounts would score its final runs of the game in the 8th as pinch hitter Mitchell Hatley came in on a passed ball during Chris Ahearn’s at-bat, who would do some damage of his own with an RBI double to left field to score Donnie Wilson. Western had 5 players with multi-hit games with Greene and Haynes leading the way with each having a 2-for-3 performance while Strausbaugh, Smith and John Ingram went 2-for-4 for the game. Drew Saberhagen, son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Bret Saberhagen, made dad proud in his 1st Catamount win, going 7 innings allowing 4 hits, 1 run, while walking 2 and striking out 3. Juniors Ryne Nelson and Marion, NC native Greg Holland each threw a scoreless inning in relief.