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Cullowhee, N.C. - Donovan Minero tied a career high by driving in five runs to lead Western Carolina to an 8-7 victory over East Tennessee State Sunday afternoon at Hennon Stadium.
With the win, the Catamounts (19-19, 12-8 SoCon) have now won four consecutive league series, including wins over the SoCons top three teams (The Citadel, UNC Greensboro and Georgia Southern). ETSU falls to 15-23, 7-11 in the SoCon.
Leading 7-4, Westerns Todd Roper began the home half of the eighth with a single and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Rod Goldston. After an intentional walk to Alan Beck, Minero hit a sacrifice fly to plate Roper to give WCU a four-run lead (8-4).
The insurance run in the eighth proved to be the game winner as the Bucs scored three runs in the ninth. Two runs came on a Nathan Copeland home run to center, scoring Andy Baxter, who started the ninth with a double. Back-to-back singles by Chad Boruff and Kirk Keithley and a sacrifice bunt by Jeremy Terry put runners on second and third with one out. Scott Roses RBI ground out cut the lead to one, 8-7, before Tim Turner grounded out to end the game.
Western Carolina starter Ryan Basner improved to 4-6, tying his season high with 7.1 innings pitched. The sophomore scattered 12 hits, allowing four runs with a walk and a strikeout. Ryan Foster pitched the final 1.2 innings to pickup his third save of the season as he surrendered five hits and three runs, while striking out one.
ETSU, who pounded out 45 hits in the three-game series, started the scoring with a pair of runs in the top of the third. Copeland hit a sacrifice fly to plate Brandon Cross and Keithley singled home Baxter. The Catamounts immediately answered with three runs in the bottom half as Minero delivered a three-run homer for his 12th blast of the season.
The Bucs tied the game with a single run in the fourth on an RBI double by Cross before WCU exploded for three more runs in the bottom half. Michael Roane hit a leadoff double and scored one batter later on a Roper double to right-center. After a wild pitch, Roper scored on a Goldston ground out. A two-out single by Todd Buchanan chased Buc starter Matt Hensley (2-4). Minero welcomed ETSU relief pitcher Jerrod Hyder with an RBI double to center to give the Cats a 6-3 lead.
The two teams would trade runs in sixth and seventh innings. Westerns tally in the bottom of the sixth came when Goldston, who doubled to start the inning, would eventually cross the plate on a double play, while ETSUs Baxter hit a solo homer to start the seventh.
Six of Westerns starting nine had multiple hit games, including Roper (2-for-5), Goldston (3-for-4), Beck (2-for-3), Minero (2-for-4), Ryan Schade (2-for-4) and Roane (3-for-4). Other than Mineros five RBI, Roper and Goldston added one RBI each. The Bucs were led by Ryan Hyder and Baxter, each collecting four hits, while Boruff and Keithley added three hits each. Copeland paced ETSU with three RBI.
Western Carolina will return to action on Wednesday when plays UNC Asheville. First pitch is set for 3:00 p.m., at Greenwood Field. The Catamounts and Bulldogs have already met twice this season in Cullowhee, with the Cats winning 19-10 on Feb. 28 and 9-7 on Mar. 7.