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Needham Homers in Midweek Loss to Gardner-Webb

Daniel Hooker

Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations

Drew Needham belted a three-run home run in the first inning as part of reaching base four times in Tuesday’s nonconference matchup with regional-rival Garner-Webb. However, the Runnin’ Bulldogs matched WCU’s four-run inning with a pair of four-run frames of their own to secure the seasonal series split with the Catamounts with a 9-6 victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.


Needham’s blast answered a first-pitch, first-inning home run by Alec Burns and handed the Catamounts a 4-1 lead after one complete. However, Gardner-Webb reclaimed its advantage with a four-spot of its own in the top of the third inning to take a lead it would never relinquish. The Runnin’ Bulldogs tallied four more insurance markers in the road half of the sixth to lead 9-4 headed to the final third.


In the ninth, freshman Landon Mowery delivered a two-out pinch-hit single up the middle to cash in a pair of one-out walks to claw the Catamounts back to within three, but WCU would get no closer in the loss. The final six outs between the eighth and ninth innings were recorded on strikeouts.


Western Carolina’s six hits were scattered between six different players with Needham finishing 1-for-1 with the first-inning round-tripper accounting for the squad’s lone extra-base hit. The Liberty, N.C., native was a fixture on the base paths, drawing three of the team’s five walks. Trent Turner (1-for-3), Hayden Friese (1-for-3), Nate Stocum (1-for-4), Kyle Riesselmann (1-for-5), and Mowery (1-for-1) each tallied singles with the latter plating a pair in the ninth.


Mason Holton drew the other two walks for WCU in the loss. Zach Ketterman (0-for-4) was held off the bases for the first time in 19 games as his reached base safely streak came to a close.


Gardner-Webb (20-27) had three players post multi-hit games with Burns leading the way, reaching base five times with a 3-for-3 effort with a homer and two singles while also drawing a pair of walks. Mark Black (2-for-2) and Ryan Kennell (2-for-5) also collected a pair of singles a piece. Matt Ilgenfritz (1-for-2) plated two with a pinch-hit double in the visitor’s four-run sixth.


Nick Capozzi reached three times on a trio of walks with Max Smyley (1-for-2) also walking twice.


Catamount starter Spenser Hamblen (2-6) was the tough-luck loser as he was tagged for five runs on six hits with three walks against a strikeout. Of the seven relievers used by WCU, five posted at least a third of an inning of hitless, scoreless relief. Carson Lowder needed just four pitches to record his lone out with Sunday starter Davis Budd returning to form with a six-pitch relief inning with a strikeout. Dylan Wheeler worked around a pair of walks with two strikeouts in an inning with Cannon Pickell tossing an inning with one walk.


Dusty Revis and Griffin Guinther combined for two innings with four runs on four hits surrendered. Revis tallied a strikeout in his 1.1 innings.


Gardner-Webb reliever Kazuya Kojima (1-0) was credited with the win after two scoreless one-hit innings as the first arm out of the Runnin’ Bulldog bullpen in relief of starter Noah Arnett who was tagged for four runs on four hits in the first inning. Garrett Hodges also tossed two innings of hitless, scoreless relief with a walk while Connor Maggi and Devin Pressley combined for six strikeouts over the final two frames.


Western Carolina (23-23) continues its five-game homestand this weekend as the Catamounts play host to the Mercer Bears in a key Southern Conference series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Game times are 5 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday as Catamount baseball welcomes home its alumni for a special weekend. Fans should anticipate heavy traffic on campus as games on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon coincide with WCU's commencement exercises.


All three games of the SoCon series will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online at Friday’s series opener will be broadcast locally on TheCW 62 (Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson-Asheville) and simulcast on E+.

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