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  • Daniel Hooker

WCU Baseball Drops Series Finale at UNCG, 11-8

Western Carolina rallied from a five-run deficit with seven combined runs between the sixth and seventh innings on Sunday afternoon to take a two-run advantage. However, UNC Greensboro scored the game’s final five runs including three to pull back in front for good in the home half of the seventh inning as the Catamounts dropped the series finale 11-8 at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.

The Spartans scored multiple runs in five frames including four two-run innings and a decisive three-run home portion of the seventh inning to win the Southern Conference opening series.

Down 6-1, after UNCG scored a trio of two-run innings over the game’s first four frames, Brandon Butterworth started WCU’s sixth-inning rally with a sacrifice fly to plate Jack Spyke. Drew Needham then delivered a two-run home run down the right field line to make it 6-4 Spartans through six complete. In the seventh inning, the Catamounts surged in front for the first time as Butterworth drew a bases-loaded walk ahead of James Hinson who belted a three-run double to the gap in left-center field, pushing WCU in front, 8-6.

UNCG (13-11, 2-1 SoCon) answered, though, in the home portion of the seventh inning with a three-spot as a pair of Catamount errors and heads-up base running by the Spartans resulted in a 9-8 lead for the home squad. In the eighth, UNCG’s Zack Budzik delivered a two-run single for a pair of insurance markers and ultimately provide the final score.

Hinson reached on a two-out single in the ninth but was stranded at second as the game ended.

WCU’s nine base hits were scattered between five players with Hinson leading the way with a career-best four hits in a 4-for-5 effort with a double and four RBI. Needham was 2-for-5 with the two-run homer while Butterworth finished 0-for-3 officially with a pair of RBI on a sac fly and a walk. Zach Ketterman and Jordan Starkes both reached three times with a hit and walked twice, as did Spyke.

Freshman reliever Brandon Eldridge (0-3) was saddled with the loss, surrendering three runs – only one of which was earned – over 2.1 innings with one hit and a walk allowed while striking out two. Corey Bright earned the start, striking out three against three walks in 2.1 innings with four runs – two earned – allowed on two hits. Freshman Adam Quincy matched his career-long with 1.2 relief innings and Nick Hyde struck out the one batter he faced as the Catamounts used seven different pitchers.

Budzik led UNCG by reaching four times in a 3-for-3 effort with a double and a walk, scoring all four times he was on base while also driving in two runs. Kennedy Jones homered in a 2-for-4 outing with three runs scored.

Reliever Julien Peissel (2-0) earned the victory, striking out two over three innings as the fourth UNCG pitcher to climb the mound on Sunday.

Western Carolina (10-14, 1-2 SoCon) is idle in the midweek before remaining on the road in Southern Conference play, visiting the Mercer Bears (16-9, 2-1 SoCon) in Macon, Ga., next weekend March 31 through April 2.

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