The Samford baseball team swept Western Carolina at home this weekend, due in part to late offensive rallies and a stellar pitching performance.
The Bulldogs added three wins to their impressive 2012 record at Joe Lee Griffin field with wins of 6-3, 4-2 and 10-9.
“I was really impressed with how our team raised their game this weekend,” senior pitcher Josh Martin said. “There was an extra fire to us that I haven’t seen in a while.”
Martin pitched an impressive second game, giving up two runs on 10 hits in 8.2 innings. He threw 13 strikeouts on Saturday in his career-best performance.
Leading the Bulldogs offensively were right fielder Brandon Miller, second baseman Zeth Stone and left fielder Christiaan Durdaller.
In the first game of the series, the Catamounts jumped out to a 3-2 lead after three innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, Samford cranked out four runs to regain the lead, 6-3. All four runs came with two outs.
After leading off with a single, center fielder Phillip Ervin scored on an Austin Allison walk.
Stone then hit an infield single that was mishandled by the Western Carolina defense, scoring C.K. Irby and Durdaller. Allison scored the game’s final run, scoring on a fielder’s choice by catcher Brad Moss.
Joseph Burns pitched the last four outs for the Bulldogs, earning his first save of the season and preserving the win for Charles Basford.
Back-to-back home runs in the second game gave Samford enough momentum to pull out a 4-2 win. Miller and Irby went yard on consecutive at bats to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
After giving up two runs in the top of the fifth, Martin did not allow another run the rest of the game, and Miller added a solo home run to left field in the eighth to provide the final score.
“After I gave up the two runs I took a look at how things were going,” Martin said. “I knew that if I didn’t step up my focus I was going to cost us the game…. When stuff starts going wrong you find that little extra to give to get things going right again.”
Martin earned his 19th career win on Saturday, surpassing the Samford record set by Glen Criswell in the mid-1990s.
Miller’s two home runs on Saturday put him one shy of the Bulldogs’ single-season record of 17. He currently leads the Southern Conference and is among the top home run hitters in the country.
In the final game, Samford overcame an early 7-run deficit with help from junior pitcher Lex Rutledge and a spectacular scoring streak in the fifth inning.
Coming in as relief for starter Kyle Putkonen and Gil Walker, Rutledge pitched four scoreless innings and allowed only two hits.
“All I tried to do was go out there, put up zeros for our team and give us a chance to get back into the game the moment we had an opportunity,” Rutledge said.
The opportunity came in the bottom of the fifth. Tommy Corbin led off the inning for Samford with a single and eventually scored off a Stone single for the second Bulldog run of the game.
With two outs and trailing 7-4, Irby drove in three runs with a double to right center field. In Corbin’s second at-bat of the inning he hit another single, sending Irby home to take the lead.
By the end of the fifth, the Bulldogs had a comfortable 9-7 lead and tacked on another run in the bottom of the eighth.
A late rally by Western Carolina was not quite enough, and Irby got another save as the Bulldogs ended with a 10-9 win.
“Sweeping a tough team like Western Carolina at home really has gotten our team rolling,” Rutledge said. “It’s also given us the confidence that we can come back and battle through anything like we did on Sunday.”