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  • Daniel Hooker

Four Homers Power WCU to Sunday’s Sweep of Harvard




Nate Stocum homered twice including blasting a three-run shot as part of a decisive five-run second inning as Western Carolina completed the three-game nonconference series sweep over Ivy League member Harvard on Sunday with an 8-5 victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

 

The victory pushes Western Carolina’s current win streak to five in a row as the Catamounts secured a three-game weekend series sweep for just the second time this season – and the first since taking all three from Iona on opening weekend.

 

Stocum finished 2-for-4 with a three-run and solo home run to lead three Catamounts with multi-hit games, reaching base three times and adding a walk to accompany his four RBI. Kyle Riesselmann homered and doubled in a 2-for-5 performance with a pair of RBI, with Zach Ketterman singling twice in a 2-for-4 showing.

 

Both Drew Needham and catcher Kyle Harbison reached twice in the win, Needham hitting a solo homer and drawing a walk with Harbison reaching on a single and a base on balls.

 

Harvard’s Matt Giberti tallied a game-best three hits with a trio of singles, adding a walk to reach base four times to lead two Crimson hitters with multiple hits. George Cooper plated two runs on a double and single in his first two at-bats and Jack Rickheim homered with a two-run shot in the sixth inning.

 

Trailing by two after the top half of the first inning, Western Carolina wasted little time in starting the march back. Leadoff batter Riesselmann smacked the first pitch of the home portion of the first over the fence in right to cut the Crimson lead in half, 2-1 after one.

 

Harvard capitalized on a two-out walk with a run-scoring single by George Cooper in the top of the second to regain the two-run advantage, 3-1. The Catamounts then exploded for five runs to grab a lead they would never relinquish. Needham walked, Ketterman singled on a perfectly-placed bunt that hugged the third-base line, and Mason Holton was plunked to load the bases with nobody out. Harvard then induced a double-play that plated the first run. Riesselmann then doubled home Ketterman to knot the game at three apiece.

 

With Trent Turner aboard with a second hit batter, Stocum blasted a three-run homer to cap the scoring at five as the Catamounts doubled up the Crimson on the scoreboard, 6-3, after two. Needham connected on his second homer of the weekend to extend the Catamount lead to four at 7-3 through three complete innings.

 

After a pair of scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth, Harvard carved into WCU’s lead as Jack Rickheim hit a two-out, two-run homer to make it 7-5 as the Crimson continued to threaten.

 

In the eighth, Stocum provided an insurance marker with a towering solo homer to right field to provide the final tally and Jonathan Todd retired the Crimson in order in the ninth, striking out Chris Snopek to end the game and complete the sweep.

 

Catamount sophomore starter Ryan White (2-1) collected the victory on Saturday, striking out one against three walks while scattering seven hits and five runs over 5.2 innings. Davis Budd struck out two in an inning of relief with Todd striking out one in the top of the ninth to earn his second save of the weekend with an inning of hitless, scoreless relief.

 

Harvard starter Brian Dowling (0-1) battled through five innings, surrendering seven runs on eight hits with a walk and a strikeout. Truman Pauley struck out two in a three-inning relief effort, tagged for one run on three hits.

 

Western Carolina (9-9) steps out of the conference in the midweek on Tuesday as it visits mountain-rival UNC Asheville (10-9). The Bulldogs dropped 2-of-3 to VMI at home over the weekend. The first pitch from UNCA’s on-campus Greenwood Field is scheduled for 5 p.m. with coverage on ESPN+ (paid subscription required). WCU scored a 6-5 walk-off win over the Bulldogs in the front end of the nonconference home-and-home back on Feb. 27 in Cullowhee.

 

The Catamounts return home to open Southern Conference play next weekend March 22-24, hosting ETSU for three games at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium in Cullowhee. Each game is slated to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online through CatamountSports.com.

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