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Wise County Natives Branham and Thompson Have Big Days in DH Split

WISE - - Freshman right-hander Nate Thompson hurled a complete game four-hitter and fellow freshman Matthew Branham smacked a three-run homer as UVa-Wise upended West Virginia Wesleyan 5-1 in game one before the Bobcats struck for five runs in the sixth and seventh inning to post an 11-7 win in the night cap.

UVa-Wise (17-27, 11-15 MEC) received a shot in the arm from Thompson in the opener. The Wise, Va. (Central H.S.) product allowed a leadoff single when Greg Smith reached after a diving effort by Cavalier shortstop Jordan Turner (Berryville, Va./Clarke Co. H.S.).

The next Bobcat (19-24, 16-10) to reach base would come 16 batters later when Hunter Rotarius singled up the middle with one out in the sixth inning.

While Thompson would mowing down the opposition, Branham was continuing his hot hitting. The former John I. Burton standout smacked a three-run homer as part of a five-run second inning to stake Thompson to a 5-0 lead.

The other two runs in the frame came when freshman Dante Salerno (Leighton, Pa./Marian Catholic H.S.) perfectly executed a safety squeeze to allow redshirt freshman Trevor Nevill (Hoover, Ala./Reinhardt University) to scamper home. Thompson provided the fifth run of the frame when his groundball to shortstop allowed Turner to race home.

Wesleyan finally got to Thompson in the seventh frame with two outs when Austin Keened doubled down the left field line before coming around to score on Ryan Kiser's run-scoring single.

Thompson finished the game with an exclamation point when he struck out Erik Forbick to end the contest.

With the win, the right-hander improves to 2-1 on the season and his ERA now stands at 0.92.

Zach Henderson took the loss as the left-hander surrendered five runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 innings of work. Relievers Alex Wall and Julio Medina combined to toss 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief for Wesleyan.

Josh Haga (Salem, Va./Salem H.S.) joined Salerno, Nevill and Branham as Cavs who had a hit in the win.

Game two was scoreless going to the fourth inning as Bobcats' starter Griffin Roe and Cavs' starter Nevill traded zeros on the Stallard Field scoreboard.

That changed in the fourth when Wesleyan broke through for an unearned run.

In the home half of the inning, Tyler Blaum (Mechanicsville, Va./Atlee H.S.) doubled home Haga and Stuart Paz (Culpepper, Va./Montgomery C.C.).

Branham pushed UVa-Wise's lead to 3-1 with a mammoth blast over the centerfield wall in the fifth inning.

Things became unraveled for the Cavs in the top of the sixth. The Bobcats loaded the bases with nobody out and after Domonic Castello flew out to left field, Rotarius was hit by a pitch to make the score 3-2. A strikeout of Greg Smith would get UVa-Wise an out away from wiggling out of the jam only to see an infield single off the bat of Jason Fraser to tie the game.

A batter later, John Koon busted things open with a bases clearing three-run double to put the visitors in front 6-3.

Blaum's third RBI of the game would come by way of a sacrifice fly allowing Haga to score in the home sixth to make the score 6-4.

A half inning later, Wesleyan countered with its second consecutive five-run frame. Back-to-back walks began the frame before Antonio Vega reached a perfectly executed bunt single. After a RBI groundout by Castello, Fortbrick pushed the lead to 8-4 when he jarred the ball loose from Blaum on a play at the plate.

Fraser would deliver the knockout blow in the inning with a three-RBI double to centerfield to push the lead to 11-4.

The Cavs put up a comeback bid with three runs thanks to RBI hits from David Thomas (Goodview, Va./Staunton River H.S.), Paz and Haga.

It would be as close as Hank Banner's club would get as the bullpen duo of Dillon Isom and Chris Mettrick shut the door for Wesleyan and evened the series at a game apiece.

Haga led an 11-hit effort for UVa-Wise with three hits while Paz and Thompson had two hits each.

Fraser (4) and Koon (3) combined for seven RBI in the game two win.

The same two teams will be back at it in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.