Mercer advances to championship round
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 05/26/2018
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Mercer's RJ Yeager
Courtesy: Southern Conference

No. 9 Western Carolina 8, No. 1 UNCG 4

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Led by Justin Sparks’ four-hit, three RBI effort, the No. 9 seed Western Carolina Catamounts defeated the No. 1 seed UNCG Spartans 8-4 in an elimination game on Saturday at the Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field.

Western Carolina improves to 11-46 on the season, moving on to face No. 5 seed Mercer on Saturday at 8:20 p.m. for the right to advance to Sunday’s championship round.  After being swept by UNCG in the regular season, the Catamounts topped the Spartans two times in four days, outscoring them 18-6 in the two contests.

UNCG sees its season end at 39-15 overall. The 39 wins are tied for third-most all-time at UNCG as the Spartans have won 36 or more games in the last three seasons. UNCG combined for nine hits in the loss, led by All-SoCon first-team member Caleb Webster, who was 3-for-5 with two runs batted in.

Western Carolina combined for 13 hits from seven different batters, featuring four players with at least two hits. Both Luke Robinson and Cameron Blaquiere had two hits and two RBIs to keep the Catamounts alive.

With Western Carolina clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Sparks drove in a pair of runs to give the Catamounts the much-needed run support. Bryson Parks would launch a solo shot in the eighth to give Western Carolina an 8-4 advantage.

Chase Walter (3-7) delivered a gritty effort in the win-or-go home game, tossing 7 1/3 innings, allowing four runs while striking out nine batters to earn the victory. Taylor Purus picked up his second save of the year, throwing 1 2/3 innings while fanning four batters, including striking out the side in the eighth.

SoCon Pitcher of the Year Matt Frisbee was tagged with the loss, falling to 10-2 on the season. The right-hander, who earned the loss on Wednesday against Western Carolina, lasted three innings, giving up six hits and four runs.

UNCG got on the board in the top of the second when Cesar Trejo singled to put the Spartans ahead 1-0. Western Carolina’s Caleb Robinson matched Trejo in the bottom half of the inning, singling to left to even the game.

After UNCG took a 2-1 in to the bottom half of the third inning, the Catamounts put three runs on the board to take a lead they would not relinquish. With runners on second and third, Blaquiere doubled to left center, scoring Spencer Holcomb and Will Prater.

The Spartans pulled to within one run in the fifth when Caleb Webster singled up the middle to score fellow All-SoCon first-teamer Austin Embler, making the score 5-4 before the Catamounts put distance between the two teams by scoring a pair in the seventh and one in the eighth to take the 8-4 victory.

The SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases continues Saturday at 8:20 p.m. when the Catamounts and Bears square off in an elimination game. The winner moves on to face No. 2 seed Samford on Sunday at noon.

No. 5 Mercer 10, No. 9 Western Carolina 2 

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Chase Burks delivered eight impressive innings on the mound, Brandon Michie scored four times, and No. 5 seed Mercer scored in six of the first seven innings en route to a 10-2 win over No. 9 seed Western Carolina on Saturday, ending the Catamounts’ surprise run through the Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field and moving on to the title game for the third time in four seasons.

Mercer (38-21) will face No. 2 seed Samford on Sunday but has to beat the Bulldogs twice to claim the SoCon title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals.

The Catamounts (11-47), who picked up more than a third of their seasonal wins in the last five days at the tournament, fell just short in their bid to become just the second-ever No. 9 seed to reach Championship Sunday. Western Carolina topped No. 8 seed The Citadel, No. 6 seed ETSU and No. 1 seed UNCG twice but could not figure out the Bears, who handed the Catamounts both of their losses in the tournament.

Leading 1-0 after a run scored on an error in the first, Mercer plated the eventual winning run in the third, with Alec Hanson scoring on a wild pitch and Michie scoring on a Jackson Ware sacrifice bunt.

The Bears added single runs in the fourth and fifth before blowing the game open with four in the sixth, highlighted by Trey Truitt’s two-run double. Two more runs scored on an error to make it 9-0.

Western Carolina got on the board with a two-run seventh, as Luke Robinson and Justin Sparks knocked consecutive two-out RBI singles.

Mercer got a run back in the bottom half on RJ Yeager’s sacrifice fly to deep right center to account for the final margin.

Michie was 2-for-4 for the Bears’ only multi-hit game, while Will Prater and Cameron Blaquiere were both 3-for-5 to pace Western Carolina, which out-hit Mercer 10-7 but committed five errors on the day, leading to six unearned runs.

Burks allowed two runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out nine in his eight innings of work to improve to 6-5 on the year.

Western Carolina’s Taylor Purus, who earned the save in the Catamounts’ win over UNCG earlier in the day, took the loss, falling to 3-13 on the season by allowing one unearned run on two hits in two innings of work.

The SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases concludes Sunday. Mercer and Samford will square off at noon, with a second game, if necessary, commencing 40 minutes after the completion of the first. The Bears are seeking their first SoCon title since 2015, their first season in the league, while the Bulldogs are seeking their first title since winning their only one in 2012, which was later vacated.

May 22 (Tuesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
(Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 1: #9 Western Carolina 6, #8 The Citadel 5             

May 23 (Wednesday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 2: #5 Mercer 19, #5 VMI 0 (7 inn.)                         

Game 3: #9 Western Carolina 10, #1 UNCG 2
Game 4: #2 Samford 4, #7 Furman 0
Game 5: #3 Wofford 8, #6 ETSU 7 (10 inn.) 

May 24 (Thursday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 6: #1 UNCG 11, #4 VMI 7

Game 7: #6 ETSU 5, #7 Furman 2
Game 8: #5 Mercer 15, #9 Western Carolina 0 (7 inn.)                
Game 9: #2 Samford 5, #3 Wofford 2                             

May 25 (Friday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 10: #9 Western Carolina 11, #6 ETSU 1                

Game 11: #1 UNCG 15, #3 Wofford 7

May 26 (Saturday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)

Game 12: #2 Samford 10, #5 Mercer 3
Game 13: #9 Western Carolina 8, #1 UNCG 4                   
Game 14: #5 Mercer 10, #9 Western Carolina 2                       

May 27 (Sunday)
SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (SDN)
 (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
Game 15: #3 Samford vs. #5 Mercer                 12 p.m.

^Game 16: Winner Game 15 vs. Loser Game 15              40 minutes after Game 15 

^ if necessary

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