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  • Daniel Hooker

Buccaneers Outlast Catamounts Sunday in Extra Innings



Trailing since East Tennessee State put four runs across in the first inning, Western Carolina’s Kyle Riesselmann and Trent Turner combined to drive in three runs to key a ninth-inning rally as the Catamounts pulled even at seven apiece through regulation. WCU rallied again in the 10th inning to keep the game alive but were ultimately unable to find the equalizing marker in the 12th as ETSU escaped Childress Field with a 9-8 victory in 12 innings.

 

Entering the home half of the ninth down by three runs 7-4 after the Buccaneers tacked on an insurance marker in the top of the final regulation frame, the Catamounts mounted their best offensive inning of the game in the ninth sparked by the bottom third of its lineup.

 

Back-to-back walks by Mason Holton and pinch-hitter Hayden Friese put two aboard ahead of Riesselmann who drove a run-scoring double to left center in collecting his third RBI of the game. Turner then bounced a two-run single up the middle to plate Riesselmann with the game-tying run, taking second base on the play. Slugger Nate Stocum was intentionally walked before the Bucs retired the next two to end the ninth and strand two Catamounts.

 

In the top of the 10th, ETSU reclaimed momentum and the lead as Jamie Palmese hit a solo home run over the fence in left-center field to pull back in front, 8-7. Up against it again in the home half of the first extra inning, Drew Needham drew a lead-off walk before being lifted for freshman Brody Raleigh as a pinch runner. Moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Zach Ketterman and 90 feet away on an infield single by Holton, pinch-hitter Tafton Hensley lifted a sacrifice fly deep to left to plate Raleigh with the equalizing marker.

 

Despite ETSU loading the bases on a trio of freebies – two walks and a hit batter – the Catamounts managed to keep the game tied, stranding the bases loaded. In the home half, a one-out single by Stocum was erased on a double-play to end the frame.

 

The Buccaneers manufactured a run in the top of the 12th as Nick Iannantone reached for the fifth time with his second single. Pinch runner Brogan Jones was sacrificed to second before consecutive walks – one intentional – loaded the bases. JD Yakubinis then secured what proved to be the game-winning RBI on a sacrifice fly to center for the 9-8 lead.

 

A two-out double by Ketterman gave the Catamounts life in the home half with Holton following with a walk to put two aboard. However, an infield fielder’s choice with a force out at second ended the game.

 

The Buccaneers won back-to-back games over the Catamounts to claim the head-to-head series for a third-straight meeting after splitting the two meetings in 2021. Sunday’s extra-inning affair was the first that went beyond nine between the two since April 10, 1999. For the Catamounts, Sunday was the fifth extra-inning game over the last two seasons with WCU sitting a 1-4 in games requiring additional frames.

 

Riesselmann (3-for-6) and Holton (3-for-4) both collected three hits apiece to lead the Catamounts, both with doubles and a pair of runs scored. Holton reached base five times, adding two of WCU’s six walks. Riesselmann hit a lead-off homer in the first inning as a part of driving in three, matched by Turner (2-for-6) as the Waynesville, N.C., product collected his lone two hits in two of his final three trips. Ketterman (2-for-5) also doubled for WCU with Stocum finishing 2-for-5 with an intentional walk.

 

Three Buccaneers collected two-hit performances with Iannatone (2-for-4) reaching five times with three walks and a pair of singles. Cody Miller (2-for-5) plated two with a single and a double with left-side infield mate Ashton King finishing 2-for-5 with a pair of singles in his first two trips.

 

Tommy Barth delivered a two-run home run as part of a four-run opening frame for the Buccaneers as the visitors capitalized on four hits and three walks to send all nine to the plate in the top of the first inning. Riesselmann cut the deficit to three with a lead-off solo homer in the bottom of the frame for a 4-1 score through one.

 

Following two scoreless innings, the Bucs added a two-spot in the top of the fourth with a bases-loaded walk and a single to lead 6-1.

 

The Catamounts started their march back in the fifth inning as Needham walked and Ketterman singled with one out. Holton then delivered a run-scoring single with Riesselmann collecting his second RBI to trim the deficit in half, 6-3. Turner later dropped a run-scoring double down the right-field line in the seventh to make it a two-run margin heading into the latter innings, setting up the combined four-run ninth and trio of extra innings.

 

After spotting ETSU six runs over the first four innings, senior reliever Cole Beverlin stemmed the tide for the Catamounts out of the bullpen as the WCU legacy matched a career-high with four strikeouts over four hitless, scoreless innings. The Coral Springs, Fla., product worked around one walk in keeping the home squad within reach. Starter Ryan White fought through 3.2 innings with six runs on five hits, adding a strikeout against four walks before Dante Visconti closed the fourth with a strikeout.

 

Jonathan Todd struck out two over two innings with Dylan Wheeler and Shane Huntsberger (0-1) tossing the final two innings. Huntsberger was the tough-luck loser, allowing one run on a hit with three walks.

 

Owen Kovacs (1-0) scored the win in relief for the Buccaneers, scattering three hits over three scoreless relief innings with a walk and a strikeout. Freshman starter Michael Harpster was solid over five innings, striking out six with three runs allowed on four hits with a walk. Carter Fink made his second appearance of the weekend with 3.1 innings tossed, striking out two against a pair of walks, and allowing three runs on four hits. Andrew Cotton and Derek McCarley also surrendered runs during WCU’s late-inning rally.

 

Western Carolina (11-11, 1-2 SoCon) is scheduled to play its next five games against Bulldog monikers, bookended the set with a home-and-home with the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs and its first league road series next weekend at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. WCU hosts Gardner-Webb on Tuesday at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium with a 5 p.m. first pitch live on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) and live stats available through CatamountSports.com.

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