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Ohmstede, Johnson Power Furman Past Western Carolina, 9-2

Nate Smith
Nate Smith

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Chris Ohmstede continued his recent power surge with a first inning grand slam and Taylor Johnson also homered and drove in three runs to power Furman past Western Carolina, 9-2, in the opening game of a three-game Southern Conference baseball series Friday evening at Latham Stadium.

The early offensive display by Furman (18-11, 6-7 SoCon), which scored four runs in both the first and second innings to take an 8-0 lead, helped Paladin starting pitcher Nate Smith (4-1) cruise to his third win in his last four starts.  Smith tossed shutout ball through seven innings before yielding a pair of runs in the eighth.  The senior left-hander surrendered six hits and a pair of walks while striking out nine — one shy of his season high.

Ohmstede's grand slam, which came with two outs in the first inning off of Western Carolina's Jeremy Null, was set up by Alex Abrams, who battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk and bring Ohmstede to the plate, where he lined the first pitch he saw from Null over the left field fence to stake the Paladins to a 4-0 lead.

Johnson, who doubled and scored on Ohmstede's route job in the first, keyed a four-run Paladin second with a two-run double to center field that bounced off the fence after Catamount center fielder Julian Ridings fell down while collecting himself to make the catch.

The Greer, S.C., product, who homered and drove in three runs in Wednesday's 6-5 win over 11th-ranked South Carolina, hit his second home run in as many games in the fourth when he drilled a solo shot onto the hill beyond the left field fence to stretch Furman's lead to 9-0

Western Carolina (17-15, 7-6 SoCon) broke up the shutout with a Tyler White two-run double in the eighth, but Paladin reliever Drake Browne came on for Smith and doused the rally by retiring the three batters he faced, including the last two on strikeouts, to strand a pair of runners.

Johnson finished the game going 3-for-5 with three RBI and scoring two runs.

Designated hitter Jake Jones, making only his second start in over a month after being sidelined with a stress facture in his foot, had two hits for the Paladins, who finished with 10 hits.

Julian Ridings had two of the Catamounts' six hits.

Null (3-2) was charged with the loss after working 5 1/3 innings and allowing nine runs, eight of which were earned, on 10 hits.  He walked two and fanned seven.

Ohmstede's clout was his fourth in the last four games and team leading eighth round tripper of the season.  The sophomore third baseman has batted .406 (28-for-69) with eight home runs and 19 RBI over the last 17 games.

The Paladins and Catamounts play game two of the three-game series Saturday at 4:00 p.m.