W. Carolina topples No. 23 Clemson
Catamounts score seven fourth-inning runs to break game open
CULLOWHEE, N.C. -- Western Carolina used a seven-run fourth inning to rally by 23rd-ranked Clemson 8-4 on Wednesday evening in nonconference action at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium. WCU won its ninth consecutive home game this season, and its 12th in a row at home dating back to the end of last season.
Jon Nadale (2-0) pitched four scoreless innings of relief, only allowing two hits to get the win for the Catamounts. Luke Gragg went 3-for-4, igniting the seven-run inning with a pinch-hit single and later driving in two runs on a second hit in the frame. Ross Heffley finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs on a two-run home run, his second of the season.
Trailing 4-1 after three innings, Gragg started the Catamount rally with a single to left center followed by a walk to Dykota Spiess. With two aboard, Adam Martin laced a full-count double to right center, scoring both runners to close the deficit to 4-3. Two batters later, Martin touched home with the game-tying run, chasing Tiger starter Daniel Gossett after 3.1 innings pitched.
Reliever David Haselden (1-1), who took the loss for the Tigers, plunked Tyler White to rekindle the WCU rally with Heffley driving a full-count pitch out to left field to push the Catamounts ahead for good 6-4.
A pair of singles by Jacob Hoyle and Cody Jones sandwiched around a ground out for the second of the inning put two on as Gragg came to the plate for a second time. He plated the two base runners with his second hit of the frame, a single to left to provide the 8-4 margin.
WCU's pitching staff did the rest as Nadale retired 11 consecutive Tiger hitters after coming on in the top of the fourth inning. His string was halted by a single to left center by Garrett Boulware. A walk issued to Thomas Brittle put two on for Clemson when Steve Wilkerson lifted one of his three hits on the day to left field for a single. However, the WCU left fielder, Spiess, gunned Boulware down at the plate to end the inning and Tiger threat.
After the play at the dish, Clemson only had one base runner the final two innings as reliever Jeremy Sluder issued a walk in an inning of relief work. Preston Hatcher shut the door in the ninth, fanning one in an inning of action out of the bullpen.
Adam Curtis -- who was pitching on short rest after coming out of the pen over the weekend at The Citadel -- started the game, factoring in a no-decision after allowing four runs, only two of which were earned, on five hits in three innings.
All told, Western Carolina (13-4) pitchers collectively held the heart of the Tiger's line-up -- batters No. 3 through No. 7 -- to just one hit on the day.
Five Catamounts posted multiple hits in the win as WCU hung 14 on the scoreboard. Gragg and Jones both had three hits while White, Heffley and Hoyle recorded two hits each. Martin drove in two on his fifth double of the season.
Despite the hitting display, the Catamounts stranded 13 runners on base in the victory.
Haselden took the loss after only recording a third of an inning in relief of Gossett, who was making his first career start. Gossett threw 3.1 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts. His wild pitch that allowed the game-tying run to score ended his day. Hasleden faced six batters, surrendering four earned runs on four hits with a strikeout.
The Tiger bullpen in the form of Scott Firth and Jonathan Meyer worked the final 4.1 innings scoreless, scattering four WCU hits while issuing three walks.
Western Carolina opened the scoring in the top of the first inning as Aaron Attaway drove the first pitch of his at bat to right field ahead of White who moved runners to the corners with a single down the right field line. The rally appeared to be in jeopardy as Heffley lined into a double-play at short, but Hoyle tallied his 28th RBI of the season on a single to left center, plating Attaway and giving the Catamounts the 1-0 lead through one.
In the top half of the second, Clemson (6-8) responded as Phil Pohl singled to left center and later moved to third on an infield error. Jon McGibbon drove him home on a ground out to second, knotting the game at one after two frames.
The Tigers took advantage of three hits and three WCU errors in the top of the third to push across three runs to take the 4-1 lead in the game. Brittle started the rally with an infield bunt single, taking second on a throwing error on the putout attempt. Wilkerson then delivered a single up the middle to plate the go-ahead run.
Another infield bunt single by Jason Stolz put two on when Richie Shaffer flew out to right, advancing Wilkerson to third. However, a throwing error on the relay back into the infield allowed Wilkerson to scamper home with Shaffer moving to second and later third base. Pohl then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate the third run of the inning.