SATURDAY, MARCH 17, 2012
Baseball loses late to Western Carolina, 2-1
Junior Dan Gulbransen had the game-tying hit in the eighth inning.
Junior Dan Gulbransen had the game-tying hit in the eighth inning.
The luck of the Irish was not on the side of the JU baseball team Saturday following a 2-1 loss to Western Carolina in the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational at John Session Stadium.

After falling to Fairfield earlier in the day, the Dolphins (9-11) found some late life by tying the game on a double by junior Dan Gulbransen in the eighth inning. The Catamounts (14-5) befitted from JU’s eighth error of Saturday and scored the winning run on a wild pitch to outlast their host.

“We just couldn’t buy a win today,” JU head coach Terry Alexander said. “Alex (McRae) battled toe-to-toe with their ace, but we were not able to get enough runs for run. We will continue to battle until we find some consistent success.”

Trailing 1-0 in the eighth inning, junior Jake Huxtable broke up nine straight outs by Western Carolina starter Morgan McKinney with a double to left field. Sophomore Taylor Ratliff moved Huxtable to third in the next at-bat on a sacrifice bunt. Mckinney was lifted for Catamounts reliever and eventual winning pitcher Preston Hatcher who fanned senior Jonathan Murphy. Gulbransen followed with a single to left field to score Huxtable and tie the contest.

Freshman Alex McRae retired the first batter in the ninth, but Jacob Hoyle reached on an error by the Dolphins. Bradley Strong pinch ran for Hoyle and moved to second on a single by Cody Jones. The Dolphins got a force out at second as the Catamounts moved to runners to first and third base. McRae uncorked a wild pitch in the dirt that skidded to the backstop, allowing Strong to score the decisive run.

Hatcher (3-0) struck out the side in the ninth inning to help the Catamounts take the victory. He finished with four strikeouts and allowed a hit in 1.2 innings. McKinney scattered three hits and fanned seven batters in 7.1 innings for the no-decision.

McRae (2-1) went to the seventh inning for the fourth time in five starts after tossing nine frames in the loss. He allowed two runs, one earned, on seven hits and four strikeouts.

Hoyle gave the Catamounts the 1-0 lead in the third inning by doubling home Ross Heffley who led off with a single. Jones and Heffley each had two hits for Western Carolina.

The Dolphins complete the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational tomorrow against Fairfield at 6:30 p.m. Fans can follow the action through the live links at JUDolphins.com.