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  • Daniel Hooker

Catamounts Rally for Walk-Off Win over UNC Asheville



Mason Holton drew a bases-loaded, walk-off walk to cap a three-run bottom of the ninth inning as Western Carolina rallied for a 6-5 victory over mountain-rival UNC Asheville on a rainy Tuesday evening in nonconference baseball action at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

 

James Hinson accounted for three RBI in the winning effort as he drove a two-run double to the fence in center field to bring in the game-tying runs in the final frame. After Cole Jones was intentionally walked to load the bases, Holton coaxed the five-pitch, two-out free pass to score Nate Stocum with the game-winning run as the Catamounts halted a four-game slide and extended its winning streak to three-straight over the Bulldogs.

 

Trent Turner led two Catamounts with multi-hit games with a 3-for-4 effort with two singles and a double, scoring twice. Hinson was 2-for-4 with a home run and the aforementioned double, reaching a third time on a walk. WCU’s remaining three hits were scattered between a trio of hitters with Hayden Friese reaching three times with a single, a walk, and an HBP. Jack Spyke reached twice with a single and a walk to account for the tying run, while Kyle Harbison reached base two times with a walk and a single.

 

For the Bulldogs, Ben Hemphill doubled twice in a 2-for-4, two RBI effort to lead the way with the remaining five hits spread over five different players. Big South Preseason Player of the Year Robbie Burnett blasted a two-run home run as a part of reaching three times, adding a pair of walks. Michael Groves, who started for the ‘Dogs on the mound, also touched the paths three times with a single and a pair of walks.

 

Hinson put the Catamounts on the board with a lead-off solo home run over the wall in right field in the bottom of the second inning for the 1-0 lead through two complete. It was short-lived, though, as UNCA’s Robbie Burnett belted a two-run homer to straightaway center as part of a three-run third inning to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 advantage they enjoyed until the fifth.

 

Kyle Harbison opened the fifth inning with a single to right field before Trent Turner doubled to advance a runner at third base. Zach Ketterman then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to close the deficit to one run, 3-2, through five complete.

 

Asheville (3-5) extended its lead to 5-2 with a pair of markers in the top of the sixth inning as Hemphill doubled to left center to plate both Groves and Ty Kaufman. Reliever Gavin Mortenson entered, though, and struck out the next two hitters to squash the Bulldog rally.

 

The visitors threatened again in the seventh, loading the bases with one out before Ryan White was called in from the bullpen and promptly induced an inning-ending double-play on just one pitch to keep the margin at just three. Jonathan Todd entered with one out in the eighth inning and promptly retired the Bulldogs with consecutive three-pitch strikeouts to keep the game at 5-2 headed into the ninth inning.

 

In the home half, Turner reached on a lead-off single before Spyke and Stocum both drew one-out walks to load the bases ahead of Hinson. The Sylva, N.C., product then belted one to the fence that turned centerfielder Burnett around and he was unable to complete the catch against the barrier allowing two runs to score. Holton then ended the game with his five-pitch free pass two batters later, keeping WCU perfect at home in four tries this season.

 

Todd (1-0) earned the victory out of the bullpen, striking out three against a walk in an inning and two-thirds of hitless, scoreless reliefs. Todd was the sixth arm used by the Catamounts in the midweek win, all in relief of starter Dante Visconti who maneuvered around three walks with a strikeout in three innings of work. Dusty Revis, Cole Beverlin, and Gavin Mortenson each struck out two in an inning of work with Ryan White tossing one frame of hitless, scoreless relief with a strikeout.

 

UNCA reliever Sam Thompson (0-1) took the loss for the Bulldogs, tagged for three runs on two hits with three walks against a pair of strikeouts. Cal Barna was the reliever who issued the free pass that ended the game. Groves, who also occupied the DH position, worked around three walks with a strikeout in tossing four innings of one-run, one-hit baseball in the starting role.

 

Western Carolina (4-4) continues its five-game home swing this weekend, remaining at home to host Georgia State for four nonconference games at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The series opens with a 4 p.m. first pitch on Friday, followed by a Noon doubleheader on Saturday and a 1 p.m. series finale on Sunday. Each game is slated to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) and the WatchESPN app with live stats available online at CatamountSports.com.

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