CULLOWHEE, N.C. - College of Charleston scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning, including a pinch-hit two-run home run from Tyler Jackson, but the late rally could not overcome Western Carolina who took a 7-6 win on Saturday afternoon at Childress Field.
The Cougars sought to pull off the largest comeback of the season to date after trailing 7-1 heading into the ninth inning. Brandon Murray was hit by a pitch, Daniel Aldrich walked and Rob Harding reached on a throwing error that scored Murray. Cody Martin emptied the bases with a pinch-hit double to right center to make the score 7-4. After a flyout, Jackson came up as a pinch-hitter and hit his fifth home run of the season to electrify the dugout and make the score 7-6.
However, reliever Preston Hatcher retired Dre Watts and Marty Gantt to end the inning and preserve the Catamount win.
Western Carolina (27-16, 11-9) led for most of the game thanks to the strong pitching of Morgan McKinney. Heading into the ninth inning, McKinney had allowed just three hits and one run with three strikeouts. Despite being tagged for three runs in the ninth, McKinney (6-2) and his Catamount teammates held on for the win that put him at 6-2 on the season.
College of Charleston (30-13, 18-8) snapped its six-game winning streak as the Cougars struggled to find offensive production before the final frame. Starter Josh Renfro (6-4) allowed three runs on five hits in the loss and reliever Ryan West allowed four runs in the seventh inning, including a three-run double by Dykota Spiess that proved to be the eventual game-winner.
Brandon Murray scored two runs on one hit for CofC while Martin and Jackson each tallied two RBIs with their pinch-hit blasts in the ninth inning.
The Cougars scored first in the top of the first inning when Rob Harding punched a two-out single into right field that scored Murray from third and put CofC up 1-0.
The Catamounts answered in the bottom half of the inning with two singles from Austin Attaway and Ross Heffley. Attaway came around to score and tie the game on a double play groundout from Tyler White.
The Catamounts scored runs again in the third and fourth innings thanks to a sacrifice fly from Attaway and an RBI double by Bryant Noteboom.
McKinney kept the Cougars at bay by retiring 12 batters in a row before a single by Brandon Glazer in the seventh inning. However, the Catamounts turned a 4-6-3 double play to quickly end the threat.
Western Carolina struck for four runs in the bottom of the seventh, including a three-run pinch-hit double off the wall in left field from Spiess that came with two outs. The three insurance runs eventually proved to be the difference in the game.
Despite a final one-run margin, the Catamounts outhit the Cougars 14-5 with the top three WCU batters all tallying three hits.
The rubber game of the series will come on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Childress Field.