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Roper, Bertrand Lead Furman Past Western Carolina In Series Opener, 9-4

Roper, Bertrand Lead Furman Past Western Carolina In Series Opener, 9-4

CULLOWHEE, N.C. -- Dax Roper doubled twice, drove in a pair of runs, and scored three times, and John Michael Bertrand pitched seven solid innings to lead Furman to a 9-4 victory over Western Carolina in the opening game of a Southern Conference baseball series Thursday afternoon at Hennon Stadium.

The win, Furman's sixth straight in Cullowhee, improves the Paladins to 14-23 overall and 6-7 in SoCon play.  Western Carolina falls to 16-17 on the season and 5-8 in league action.

The teams are scheduled to play game two of the series at 5:00 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.

With the score tied 4-4 after six innings, Roper registered his first double of the contest with one out, and Trent Alley followed with his third home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field to give Furman a 6-4 lead.

The Paladins tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth on Roper's second double, which scored Jabari Richards, a Sterling Turmon RBI single that plated Roper, and a Logan Taplett sacrifice fly that brought home Turmon.

Nik Verbeke retired the Catamounts in order in the eighth, and Eric Taylor closed out the ninth to secure the victory.

Bertrand (3-2), who entered the game having pitched at least six innings in six of his season's seven starts, and who boasted a 2.73 ERA in three SoCon series opening starts, allowed four runs, three of which were earned, on seven hits over seven frames.  The sophomore right-hander recorded a career high eight strikeouts and found the strike zone on 72 of his 96 pitches.

Furman took the lead in the first inning after David Webel led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice, and to third on a balk before coming home on a Roper ground out.

The score was knotted 1-1 in the fifth when Furman combined two hits with a pair of Catamount wild pitches and an error to score three runs for a 4-1 lead.

It didn't last, however, as Western Carolina got a two-run home run from Luke Robinson in the fifth and a unearned run in the sixth to tie it at 4-4.

Alley's go-ahead home run came at the expense of Joe Vranesic (1-4), who was charged with the loss after allowing five runs, three earned on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.

Furman out-hit Western Carolina 13-8, getting two-hit performances from six players, including Webel, Roper, Alley, Turmon, as well as Bret Huebner and Jared Mihalic, who earned the start at first base for the injured John Michael Boswell.

Hunter Reid, Sports Informatoin