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  • Daniel Hooker

Big Innings, Freebies Cost the Catamounts at USC Upstate

Homestanding USC Upstate scored six runs over the opening three frames as a part of putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard in six different innings including a decisive five-run fifth as the Spartans handed Western Carolina its first loss of the season, 16-9, on Wednesday afternoon in midweek nonconference baseball action at Harley Park.


Nine of the Spartans’ 16 hits went for extra bases in the win while the Catamounts had a trio among their 14 base knocks. Upstate also took full advantage of five walks and four hit batters in the winning effort, while also benefiting from a trio of Catamount errors.


Waynesville native Trent Turner stayed hot to open the season as the junior transfer infielder led four Catamounts with multi-hit games, reaching base four times in a 3-for-5 effort with a walk and an RBI. Sophomore Hayden Friese, who earned the starting nod in right field, collected a career-best three hits in a 3-for-4 effort with a double, a pair of singles, and a walk to match Turner’s on-base plaudits.

 Landon Mowery legged out his first career triple in a 2-for-4, two-run effort adding a walk while Nate Stocum singled twice to round out WCU’s multi-hit games. Mowery and Turner both scored twice while three Catamounts – James Hinson, Kyle Riesselmann, and Kyle Harbison – each drove in two runs apiece.


Four Spartans collected multiple hits on Wednesday with first-baseman Grant Sherrod finishing 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles, scoring three times with a pair of RBI.  Jace Rinehart homered twice in a 2-for-5 performance with a game-high four RBI, while Troy Hamilton drove home three, two coming on his one hit of the day with a first-inning, two-run home run. Daniel Gernon reached base six times in Upstate’s win, finishing 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and an HBP.


USC Upstate (1-3) grabbed the early lead two batters into the game as Gernon reached on a single ahead of Hamilton who drove one out to left center for the 2-0 lead. WCU responded, though, lighting the scoreboard for three in the top of the second inning. The first three Catamounts reached with Jack Spyke drawing a lead-off walk ahead of consecutive singles by Friese and Riesselmann. WCU then capitalized on three straight walks, two that plated runs to lead by one headed to the bottom of the second.


The Spartans again found a two-spot to gain their advantage back as all three hits in the home half of the second inning went for extra bases including a pair of doubles and a triple. Upstate added a third two-run frame in the bottom of the third inning coming on Rinehart’s two-run homer to center.


Western Carolina then scored the game’s next five runs between the fourth and fifth innings. Six of the Catamounts’ first seven batters in the fourth inning reached base including a bunt single by Mowery, and singles by Turner and Stocum before Hinson doubled to left center field as part of the four-run frame handing the guests a 7-6 lead.


WCU tacked on an insurance marker in the top of the fifth inning as Mowery bounced a hot-shot chopper over the bag at first base and raced around into third base. Kyle Harbison then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to extend the lead.

However, USC Upstate scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to grab a lead it would never relinquish. Rinehart belted his second home run in consecutive at-bats to open the scoring before the next six Spartan hitters reached on free passes including four HBPs and a pair of walks that resulted in three more runs. Sherrod capped the inning’s scoring with an RBI single that deflected off Turner’s glove as he dove to make a play.


The home squad managed to tack on five more runs between the seventh and eighth with WCU finding its final run on an infield groundout by Hinson that plated Turner in the top of the eighth inning.


Freshman reliever Griffin Guinther (0-1) was saddled with the loss in his collegiate debut, surrendering three runs on three hits in one inning of official work. The third of eight pitchers used in the loss, Guinter pitched between the fourth and fifth innings, facing three batters in the latter. Relievers Gavin Mortenson and Dante Visconti both struck out two with starter Dylan Wheeler fanning one in two innings of work and Clay Cox recording his third of an inning on a punchout.


Jagger Jefferis (1-0) was effective out of the bullpen to earn the victory for Upstate, scattering four hits over four innings out of the bullpen with just two earned runs allowed against four strikeouts. Freshman starter Darin Kuskie struck out two in his collegiate debut but was chased in the second inning after allowing three runs on two hits with four walks. David James matched Jefferis with four strikeouts and Trent Hodgdon finished the final 1.2 innings of two-hit scoreless relief, punching out three.


Western Carolina (3-1) continues its early-season, four-game road swing this weekend, traveling to Florida State (3-0) for a three-game nonconference set at Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium. The series opens Friday at 5 p.m. and continues on Saturday at 2 p.m., before concluding Sunday with the first pitch at 1 p.m. Each game is slated to be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra (paid subscription required) with live stats links available online at

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