CHARLESTON, SC - Behind a complete game performance from Dylan Spence, The Citadel baseball team opened Southern Conference play with a 5-1 win over Western Carolina Friday night at Joe Riley Park.
Due to the threat of inclement weather moving in to the Charleston area Sunday, the Bulldogs (10-11, 1-0 SoCon) and Catamounts (2-18, 0-1 SoCon) will now play a doubleheader on Saturday in an attempt to get all three games of the series in. The first game will still begin at 2 p.m. at Joe Riley Park with the second game to follow approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Spence (W, 1-2) gave the Bulldogs one of his best performances of the year Friday night as he gutted through all nine innings, scattering six hits while giving up just one earned run in the sixth compared to striking out six batters. Included in those six strikeouts were a pair in the top of the ninth after the leadoff batter singled, including one looking.
"I'm proud of our guys tonight and it was obviously a great outing by Dylan (Spence), giving us a complete game," said head coach Tony Skole. "He had great control on all three of his pitches tonight and was just a real Bulldog competitor out there. (The game) started out slow, a typical Friday night in college baseball with two pitchers going at it and then we were able to get some base runners on in the fifth, put some separation on them and have a big inning. This was a great win for us and we're now focused on playing a doubleheader tomorrow, so it will be a long day and a big day of toughness for us."
The game progressed scoreless through the first four innings as both pitchers were in the zone early. Both sides started the game with a three-up, three-down inning with Western Carolina recording the first game of the hit in the second.
In the top of the third, WCU managed to load the bases with just one out. Spencer Holcomb singled to lead off before Will Prater moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Bryson Parks and Andrew Robinson then singled in back-to-back at-bats, setting up the dangerous situation for Justice Bigbie, arguably the Catamounts most dangerous player at the plate. Despite having a prime opportunity, Bigbie came up lacking for the Catamounts as he grounded into a 4-3 double play.
In the bottom of the fifth, Andrew Judkins led things off with a base hit through the left side with Taylor Cothran following that up with a single of his own. After both runners advanced off a groundout by Ben Peden, J.D. Davis put a well-placed bunt into no-man's land, scoring Judkins. On the same play, the pitcher attempted to throw Davis out at first, but an error on the throw allowed Cothran to round third and race home for the 2-0 advantage.
Four at-bats later, Jonathan Sabo singled to right field with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring both Davis and Jeffery Brown to set the score at 4-0 in favor of the 'Dogs.
After Western Carolina got a run back in the top of the sixth, Davis scored in the bottom of the seventh to set the advantage back to four as he scored an unearned run off a double by William Kinney.
Sabo, Ryan McCarthy, Judkins and Cothran all went 2-for-4 at the plate as the Bulldogs tallied 11 hits off the three Western Carolina pitchers. Sabo added a pair of RBIs and Davis scored twice.
For Western Carolina, six different batters recorded a hit with Bigbie scoring the lone WCU run on the night.
Chase Walter (L, 0-3) pitched the first 6.2 innings with Corey Sikes coming on to face one batter in the seventh before Jake Niezen closed out the game.
The Bulldogs and Catamounts will continue the series on Saturday, March 24 at 2 p.m. with a doubleheader. The second game will follow about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.