Friday, May 4, 2018

Paladins cruise past Western Carolina

Ben Anderson went 3-for-3 with two runs scored, three RBIs and reached
base six times in Furman's 13-4 win Friday. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Playing its first game at Latham Stadium since April 14, the Furman baseball team found the home confines very friendly Friday night. The Paladins collected 18 hits, including 16 from the fourth to the eighth inning, to cruise to a 13-4 win over Western Carolina.

Furman starter Nik Verbeke scattered seven hits over six innings and allowed one run to earn his team-high fifth win. Verbeke (5-3), who also lowered his ERA to a team-best 4.45, had no walks and four strikeouts.

With its fourth Southern Conference win over its last five conference games, Furman improves to 7-9 in league play. The Paladins are a half-game behind sixth-place ETSU in the SoCon.

"We got to see some of the things we've been working on finally converting over in games," Furman coach Brett Harker said. "I feel like we're playing a whole lot better and to be doing that in May is good."

The tone of the game for Western Carolina was set early. The first two Catamount batters reached base on singles before Cameron Blaquiere's line drive was snagged by Furman shortstop Bret Huebner for one out. Huebner then flipped to second to double off one runner and Sims Griffith fired to first to double off the other, completing a triple play.

The game remained scoreless until WCU took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but Furman responded in a big way in the bottom of the inning. Jabari Richards led off by hammering a pitch to left field for his fifth home run. With runners on the corners and one out, Sims Griffith laid down a perfect bunt single to make it 2-0. Ben Anderson hit an RBI-single to left before Jason Costa capped the four-run inning with an RBI-double to right-center.

Furman added single runs in the fifth and sixth, two runs in the seventh and five more in the eighth. On the Paladins' eight run-scoring hits, six were hit the opposite way.

"I felt like we had a pretty good approach and they threw some really different looks at us," Harker said. "We had some good at-bats and ending up using some (of their) bullpen. If you make them use that many pitchers on Friday night that helps you the rest of the way.
"On the flip side, Nik goes six innings and is able to save a lot of our bullpen."

Anderson went 3-for-3 with two runs, three RBIs and reached base six times to lead Furman (22-23). Brandon Elmy had three hits - including his second career triple and team-leading 13th double, two runs and two RBIs, while Jake Crawford had three hits and three runs also for the Paladins.

Justin Sparks went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, while Spencer Holcomb also went 3-for-4 to lead the Catamounts (4-39, 2-17).

Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for Saturday at noon.

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