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  • Daniel Hooker

Ketterman Plates Five, Catamounts Fan 15 in Midweek Defeat



Zach Ketterman belted a ninth-inning grand slam home run as part of driving home five of Western Carolina’s seven runs, and Catamount pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts on Wednesday night against USC Upstate. However, an opportunistic and offensive-minded Spartan side overcame an early deficit in completing the two-game seasonal sweep with a 13-7 victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

 

Hitting just south of .500 with nine home runs among his 16 extra-base hits in April, Ketterman (2-for-5) opened May with a two-hit effort including an RBI single and his 12th round-tripper of the season with his ninth-inning grand slam. It was the second-straight season that WCU hit a four-run blast in the regulation inning against USC Upstate – though the 2023 shot had a little more theatrics as Pascanel Ferreras tied the game with his long fly in a game that ultimately went 13 innings.

 

Classmate Nate Stocum (2-for-5) joined Ketterman with a multi-hit game with a pair of singles to extend his active hitting streak to 17 straight games. Mason Holton (1-for-3) drilled a two-run home run to jumpstart the Catamount offense early in the game with Jack Spyke doubling in his lone plate appearance after entering as a defensive substitution in the latter innings.

 

WCU’s remaining three hits were spread between three players with starters Kyle Harbinson and James Hinson both reaching on singles and pinch-hitter Landon Mowery singling with two outs in the ninth to set the stage for Ketterman’s four-bagger.

 

USC Upstate (29-16) had four players post multi-hit games including Koby Kropf (4-for-6) who homered and doubled twice and finished a triple shy of the cycle, scoring four times with an RBI. Grant Sherrod (3-for-6) and Noah Sullivan (2-for-2) both doubled with a pair of RBI apiece. Sullivan reached base six times, adding three walks and an HBP to his two hits. Catcher Tyler Lange (3-for-4) plated three on a trio of singles and reached on an HBP in his first at-bat.

 

With Tafton Hensley aboard after a two-out walk, Holton gave WCU the early lead with a two-run, 397-foot home run to center field as the Catamounts led 2-0 through two. However, the advantage was short-lived as USC Upstate responded with its first of three, three-run innings over the next four frames to grab a lead it would never relinquish.

 

The Spartans used a run-scoring single, scored on a wild pitch, and an RBI groundout to push three across in the third inning. After a scoreless fourth, Upstate capitalized on a throwing error on a would-be sacrifice bunt play at third to score the first run of the fifth inning, adding a second marker on an errant pitch and a sacrifice fly capping the frame. In the sixth, a third Spartan run scored on a wild pitch with a run-scoring ground out and a solo Kropf home run handing the guests the 9-3 lead headed to the final third.

 

USC Upstate tacked on solo markers in the seventh and eighth with a pair of insurance markers plated on Lang’s single in the top of the ninth to lead by 10, 13-3, with three outs remaining.

 

In the bottom of the ninth, Mowery dropped a two-out, pinch-hit single into center to help keep the game alive for the home squad. Cameron Murray took an inside fastball off the hand to reach on an HBP ahead of freshman Josh Ossiander who drew the first walk of his collegiate career to load the bases. Ketterman then blasted an 0-2 pitch over the fence in left-center for the grand slam and pulled WCU back to within six, 13-7. Stocum then just got under a two-strike pitch for a flyout to center that ended the game.

 

Eight Catamount pitchers combined to record a season-high 15 strikeouts, reaching double-digits Ks for the ninth time this season and the second time in the past three games. All eight arms that stood atop the mound recorded a punchout with three collecting a team-high three apiece.

 

Starter Spenser Hamblen (2-5) struck out three over three innings of work, allowing three runs on four hits. Dylan Wheeler struck out three over two frames but was tagged for three runs – only one of which was earned – on two hits. Griffin Guinther and Clay Cox both managed to wiggle out of bases-loaded jams with just one run allowed with Guinther striking out a career-high three. Junior transfer Maret Drye posted the first two punchouts in a Catamount uniform with Cox, Cole Beverlin, Shane Huntsberger, and Paddy McGonigal each tallying a strikeout in relief.

 

However, freebies again prolonged innings to hurt the Catamounts on Wednesday. WCU issued six walks, plunked four hit batters, and combined to throw seven wild pitches coupled with a trio of fielding errors in the losing effort.

 

Upstate reliever Jagger Jefferis (4-1) struck out a game-high six over 4.1 innings in earning the victory for the Spartans. Jefferis limited WCU to two runs on four hits with his six Ks coming without a walk. Trent Hodgdon struck out three over 1.1 innings with Cooper Ellingworth touched for four runs on the Ketterman homer with a walk and a strikeout against the two hits allowed.

 

Western Carolina (23-19) remains out of conference this weekend when the Catamounts return to the diamond, hitting the road for a three-game nonconference series over two days at No. 13 Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The Catamounts and Demon Deacons are scheduled for a 5 p.m. start on Saturday before a Sunday doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m., all available on the ACC Network Extra (paid subscription required) and WatchESPN app with live stats coverage available through CatamountSports.com.

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