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Catamounts Complete SoCon Sweep with Holton’s Walk-off Homer

Daniel Hooker

WCU Athletics

Mason Holton blasted a game-winning walk-off solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon to cap a day of comebacks for Western Carolina as the Catamounts completed the three-game Southern Conference series sweep of the Mercer Bears with a 14-13 victory on Senior Day at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.


WCU rallied three times in Sunday’s finale, answering a solo marker in the top of the first with one of its own in the home half. The Catamounts also erased a nine-run deficit to knot the game at 10 before the Bears reclaimed a three-run edge in the top of the seventh inning. WCU used an equalizing three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to send the finale to the last two eighth tied at 13 before Holton’s heroics.


Holton’s game-winning solo blast was the sixth of six home runs belted by Western Carolina in the come-from-behind victory. The Catamounts have won five straight in the head-to-head series with victories in eight of the last nine meetings, sweeping the last two series in Cullowhee.


Sunday’s walk-off victory was the second straight game-three win for WCU against Mercer on its home field that came on a walk-off. The Catamounts used an 11th-inning, two-out, walk-off single by Zach Ketterman to complete the sweep in Cullowhee with a 10-9 win back on May 8, 2022. Rallying from a nine-run deficit on Sunday, the Catamounts have likewise clawed back from big deficits in the third game of the series against Mercer in consecutive years. Last season in Macon, the Catamounts rallied from a seven-run deficit with an eight-spot in the road half of the ninth inning to secure the 15-14 victory.


Four Catamounts finished with multi-hit games with senior Zach Ketterman (3-for-5) singling three times to lead WCU. Classmates Drew Needham (2-for-3) and Nate Stocum (2-for-5) both homered twice in combining for eight RBI – five by Needham who added a sacrifice fly and a walk and three by Stocum between his two round-trippers. Trent Turner (2-for-5) singled twice among WCU’s hitters with multiple hits.


Holton reached base four times in the winning effort, drawing three walks with his lone hit coming on the ninth-inning solo home run.


Mercer collected a series-best 15 base hits with six players recording two or more hits. Parker Lester (3-for-5) reached four times with a double and a homer while Jackson Cherry (3-for-6) plated three with a pair of singles and a double. Ty Dalley (2-for-5) also drove home three on a fourth-inning, three-run home run. Noah Best (2-for-3) singled twice with a pair of sacrifice flies with Max Kops (2-for-5) tripling for one of his two hits and Brandon Prince (2-for-4) scoring three times with two singles, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt attempt where he reached on one of two WCU errors.


Lester handed the guests their first lead of the series with his first-inning home run before the Catamounts loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk ahead of Needham’s sacrifice fly to knot the game at one after one.


Leading 2-1 after another run in the top of the second, Mercer used consecutive four-run innings in the third and fourth to grab a commanding 10-1 lead heading to the home portion of the fourth inning. However, James Hinson (1-for-3) sparked a WCU big inning for the second consecutive day with a one-out solo home run over the fence in left-center field. With two away in the frame, Kyle Riesselmann (1-for-4) singled to unknowingly open a string of eight consecutive Catamounts to reach base. Turner singled home Riesselmann before Stocum belted a two-run home run to cut the deficit in half. Needham was put on by an HBP following the Stocum dinger with a trio of walks – the third by Hinson – plating WCU’s seventh run.


In the fifth, Needham struck with his first of his two homers on a three-run shot to right field that tied the game at 10 through five complete.

Mercer counterpunched, though, plating three runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings with Cherry legging out a two-run double to push the Bears ahead 13-10 just inside the game’s final third. But again, the Catamounts responded as Stocum and Needham hit consecutive convincing home runs to right field to close the margin to one. Holton drew a walk after the second round-tripper before scoring the game-tying run on the Kyle Harbison single into right field.


In the top of the eighth against reliever Dusty Revis, Mercer used a single and a sacrifice bunt to put the go-ahead run at second base. However, a fielder’s choice and a force-out at third cut down the lead runner for the second out. A two-out single again put two aboard before Revis collected his lone strikeout in his second appearance of the series to keep things tied at 13. WCU was then retired to send the gridlock into the ninth.


The Bears managed to move runners to the corners with just one out against Catamount closer Jonathan Todd (2-1), using a hit batter and a one-out single to threaten. However, celebrating both his graduation and Senior Day, Todd induced a pop-up and a groundout that ended the threat to set up the ninth-inning theatrics.


With one out following a lead-off strikeout, Holton coaxed the count to 3-1 before blasting the fifth pitch of his at-bat over the batter’s eye, carrying the 395 distance and 20-foot-high fence to set off the wild celebration.


Todd, in his second appearance of the series, was the eighth pitcher used by the Catamounts and benefited from Holton’s blast to score his second victory of the season with an inning of one-hit, scoreless relief. Revis struck out one to counter a pair of hits in posting three outs. Among the other pitching highlights was Cannon Pickell who struck out two to deal with three walks with one run allowed in two relief innings.


WCU starter Davis Budd struck out two in the opening frame before ultimately being chased in the third inning after recording six outs. He allowed six runs – three earned – on six hits. All told, relievers Ryan White, Cole Beverlin, Shane Huntsberger, and Revis combined for the remaining four strikeouts.


Reliever Fred Wilson (1-5) was saddled with the loss after allowing the ninth-inning home run on the heels of posting the lone strikeout of his two-inning appearance, the fifth of five arms used by the Bears. Starter Wesley Franklin struck out a team-best two over 3.2 innings with six runs on seven hits allowed, walking three before being lifted in the fourth inning. Bryant Olson walked three in allowing a run without surrendering a base hit and not recording an out in relief.


Western Carolina is scheduled to conclude the home portion of its 2024 regular season on Tuesday, May 14, hosting the Presbyterian Blue Host (26-25) in the backend of a nonconference home-and-home. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online at WCU claimed the first meeting between the two 9-5 back on April 9 in Clinton, S.C.


Following Tuesday’s home finale, WCU wraps up the conference season slate with a three-game road trip to Lexington, Va., to face the VMI Keydets (25-26, 6-12 SoCon) at Gray-Minor Stadium in a series that opens on Thursday evening. Each game is slated to be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio as well as video streaming through ESPN+ (paid subscription required) and live stats online at

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