Johnson City, Tenn. (May 11, 2002) - Western Carolina broke open a close game with three runs in the ninth inning and then held off an East Tennessee State rally in the bottom of the ninth to take a 7-6 Southern Conference baseball win at Cardinal Park.
East Tennessee State (19-30, 11-14 SoCon) starter Reid Casey (Kingsport, Tenn.) got in trouble right off the bat, walking the first three hitters of the game. He got out of the jam, however, allowing just one run on a double play ball by Donovan Minero.
Bryan Crouse (Kingston, Tenn.) gave ETSU its only lead of the game in the fourth, swatting a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left center with Kirk Keithley (Peoria, Ill.) aboard for a 2-1 Buccaneer lead.
Western Carolina (31-17, 20-9 SoCon) tied the game in the fifth when Dan Woodley led off with a single and moved to second on a hit by Rod Goldston. Alex Gary then followed Goldston with a single to left that scored Woodley. The Catamounts then reclaimed the lead in the sixth when Alan Beck launched his 10th home run of the season into the netting in left for a 3-2 lead.
After scoring a run on a Beck sac fly in the eighth, WCU struck for three in the ninth that gave the Catamounts what looked like a comfortable 7-2 lead. A pair of singles and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out. Gary then delivered the big blow, a two-run double to right center that chased Casey from the mound. WCU got one more on a sac fly from Minero before ETSU reliever Jarrod Hyder (Elizabethton, Tenn.) could get the final out of the frame.
Keithley led off the ninth with a single to left that started the Buccaneer rally. Crouse followed with another single and the pair moved up a base on a groundout. Chad Boruff (Knoxville, Tenn.) pinch-hit and was hit by Western's Ryan Foster to load the bases. After getting the second out on a pop up, Foster allowed consecutive infield hits by Matt Traylor (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jeremy Terry (Cumberland, Ky.) to score two runs to make it 7-4. Ryan Basner then came on to pitch for WCU to face Brandon Cross (Bluff City, Tenn.). Cross hit a sharp grounder to third, but Ryan Schade's throw to second was wide, allowing two more runs to score. Basner then got out of the jam by striking out Mike Giroud (St. Petersburg, Fla.) to end the game and earn his second save.
Dan Foley started for Western and threw a strong six innings to pick up the win, allowing just four hits and a pair of runs. Casey lost for just the second time in conference play, allowing all seven runs in 8.1 innings.
Gary finished the day 2-for-4, driving in three runs to lead the Catamounts. Todd Buchanan also had a pair of hits for WCU. Crouse and Keithley each went 2-for-4 for ETSU, with Crouse driving in a pair and scoring twice.
The two teams will finish off the three-game series on Sunday at Cardinal Park at 1:00 p.m.