around with Dolphins
Josey tosses complete game for WCU
By Sean Ryan
WILSON, N.C. – Earlier this season, Western
Carolina big stick Alan Beck was struggling a bit at the plate.
His mother gave a rally monkey for luck. The next week, Beck was
the Southern Conference’s player of the week, and the legend of Rufus was born.
“It’s passed along the same way every game,”
sophomore lefty Brad Josey said. “The same hands have touched it every game, the
Rufus was perched in the Catamounts’ dugout
Saturday, and WCU needed him more than ever as it faced Le Moyne in an
elimination game of the NCAA Regionals.
What the Catamounts got was just
as important as the magic of the rally monkey: a strong outing from Josey.
Josey tossed a complete game, and
third-seeded Western Carolina ended fourth-seeded Le Moyne’s season with a 9-5
win at Fleming Stadium. The Catamounts (42-20) advanced to a Saturday night date
with the loser of North Carolina State and Virginia Commonwealth. The Dolphins,
who were making their first NCAA appearance since 1989, finished 33-17.
“If we’re going to win it, we’re
going to win four games in a short period of time,” Catamounts coach Todd
Raleigh said. “Brad did what we thought he’d do, what he always does. Goes out
and gives us a chance to win every time.”
After a rain delay of more than
2½ hours, WCU doubled their offensive output from Friday’s one-hitter at the
hands of VCU with two hits in the first. Todd Roper tripled to start the game
and scored on Wayne Kilmer’s sacrifice fly.
“Todd’s first hit kind of set the
tone,” Raleigh said.
The Catamounts kept it going by
stretching the lead to 4-0 in the third. Kilmer plated Jason Sigmon when Sam
Parkins robbed him of a hit with a diving stab up the middle. Roper, who had
reached on an error on his sacrifice bunt scored on a passed ball before Todd
Buchanan launched his 12th homer.
Chris Davis singled to lead off
the fourth and moved up on two wild pitches before scoring on Sigmon’s sac fly
to make it 5-0.
Josey (7-2) gave up three runs –
two on Andre Enriquez’s homer to right center – but otherwise was solid.
“These guys, they’ll give you
some runs,” Josey said. “Once I get some runs, then I’ve got a lot more
confidence when I go out there.”
Buchanan (2 for 5, three RBI)
drove in two more runs with a single up the middle in the sixth to make it 9-3,
and Josey cruised, retiring 12 straight at one point, until he hit some trouble
in the eighth. Kyle Brown fought off several pitches before hitting a towering
homer to left cut the Dolphins’ deficit to four.
But Josey buckled down.
“Seriously, I was laboring a
little bit,” he said. “But I knew it was big if I could get the whole game in
because I know we have a lot of good pitchers and we didn’t waste any more
Added Raleigh: “I asked him in
the eighth: How do you feel? Before he said anything, I said: Good, you’re going
back out there…He gave us exactly what we needed.”
At least part of the credit
appears to go to Rufus, who’s been a part of the WCU family since April 1. The
beanie-baby type stuffed animal has been known to hang around or be used to rub
a slumping bat.
“It was new when we got him,”
Raleigh said. “Actually, it turned our season around. He’s nasty, he needs a
bath, but they won’t give him a bath.”
Maybe when the season’s done. But
for now, the Catamounts have some more ball left in them.