FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina and fourth-year head coach Bobby Moranda today unveiled the 2011 Catamount baseball schedule which will open at home on February 18. The 56-game regular season schedule includes 29 home dates at the renovated Childress Field / Hennon Stadium with 24 road games and the hosting of an early-season, neutral site tournament in Forest City, N.C.
The 2011 season will culminate with the annual Southern Conference Baseball Tournament at Joseph P. Riley Park, along the banks of the Ashley River in Charleston, S.C., May 25-29.
“We have put together a quality schedule with great competition in the tradition of Western Carolina baseball,” said Moranda, who guided his 2010 squad to the championship game of the SoCon tournament. “Playing quality opponents with solid RPI’s during our non-conference portion will help prepare us for the tough Southern Conference slate. We have a great mixture of mid-week opponents that will challenge our players and also excite our fan base.”
With its balanced schedule for 2011, the Catamounts will not play more than five games away from home at one stretch. The month of April features three home SoCon series with one on the road, while March and May both have two road conference series against just one at home.
WCU will also host a three-game, non-conference weekend series against the San Diego State Aztecs on April 29 through May 1. The Aztecs are coached by former major league all-star Baseball Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn.
The 2011 season opens with six of the first seven at home, beginning on Friday, Feb. 18 as the Catamounts host Morehead State in the first of a three-game series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. It is the first meeting on the diamond for WCU and the Eagles since 1997 when the Catamounts took two-of-three. The opening weekend will also be highlighted by a Catamount baseball banquet on Saturday, Feb. 19 (7:30 pm) honoring everyone involved with the on-going facility renovations to Hennon Stadium.
The opening six home dates will be bookended by the first-ever meeting with the Manhattan Jaspers of the Mid-American Athletic Conference (MAAC).
Western Carolina’s first mid-week test will come at Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) foe Wake Forest on Tuesday, Feb. 22 in a newly renovated Wake Forest Baseball Park, former known as Ernie Shore Field which hosted former Winston-Salem minor league teams the Dash, Warthogs and Spirit over the last half century.
WCU’s five-game stretch away from home opens the month of March as the Catamounts travel to Richmond, Ky., to face Moranda’s alma mater, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, in a two-game set. Western Carolina has won eight of the last nine meetings between the two schools despite having a seven-game winning streak snapped with a 12-9 home loss last season.
The team will also host a six-game, four-team tournament in Forest City, N.C., at McNair Field – home of the Coastal Plain League summer squad, the Forest City Owls. WCU took two from Gardner-Webb at the facility a year ago as a part of the team’s 5-0 start to 2010. In addition to the Catamounts, the Akron Zips, Ohio State Buckeyes and Army Black Knights round out the field for three-days of double-header baseball action.
WCU’s meetings with Akron and Army represent the first-ever between the schools, while the Saturday date with Ohio State marks the first-time since 2007 that the two will square off on the diamond. The Catamounts took the two most recent meetings with OSU by a combined score of 19-5 (7-3, 12-2), and leads the overall series, 6-5.
“Long-time Catamount supporter and Forest City residents Paul and Nora Jones wanted us to play at McNair Field. The administration with the Owls also liked the idea of having a collegiate tournament. We had a great experience last year with two games against Gardner-Webb – it is a great facility and we knew we could attract quality opponents. It should be an extremely competitive weekend of baseball in a prime location for many WCU alums to attend,” said Moranda on the tournament.
The Catamounts will play home-and-home, mid-week series with five non-conference foes, beginning with the Clemson Tigers on March 9 in Cullowhee, with the return trip slated for April 6. WCU won the lone meeting between the two last season, capturing a 12-9 win at Doug Kingsmore Stadium – just the program’s fourth road win all-time in the series and the second since Moranda took over in `08 – thanks to a seventh-inning grand slam home run by Tyler Kirkpatrick.
Other mid-week, home-and-home foes include Kennesaw State (March 15, May 11), mountain-rival UNC Asheville (March 16, April 12), Gardner-Webb (March 23, May 16) and High Point (March 29, April 26). WCU will also make a return to Knoxville, Tenn., where they downed former skipper, Todd Raleigh, and his Tennessee Volunteers a season ago for an April 20 tilt.
Western Carolina’s Southern Conference slate features five, three-game home series including hosting Elon (March 18-20), Samford (April 8-10), Georgia Southern (April 15-17), Wofford (April 22-24) and a re-match of last year’s SoCon Championship when The Citadel comes to Cullowhee for the regular-season finale, May 19-21, in a battle of the league’s winningest two programs.
The Catamounts’ road SoCon slate opens at UNC Greensboro (March 11-13) and continues with trips to Davidson (March 25-27), the College of Charleston (April 1-3), Appalachian State (May 7-9) for a second-consecutive year and Furman on May 13-15.
Working around stadium construction that has included painting the entire facility, installation of a centerfield batter’s eye, refurbishing the dugouts and the addition of a brick facade behind home plate that stretches from dugout to dugout, Major League netting and re-seating the whole stadium, the Catamount baseball team has worked through the first half of its allotted fall practice dates.
“This off-season renovation project has taken on a life of its own. I am so proud of my assistant coaches, Dave (Haverstick), Alan (Beck) and Bruce (Johnson), our players and my wife, Pamela, for going above and beyond in helping make this project a reality,” Moranda said. “So many amazing people have stepped up – too many to simply list – and are deserving of my utmost respect and appreciation from the Catamount baseball family.”
With a focus on implementing the team’s system and concentrating on fundamentals this fall, many positions remain up for grabs as the squad hurdles towards the start of another season.
“Things have gone very well thus far this fall. Our team is really starting to take shape as we learn and execute within the system. Over the last few days, we’re starting to see the younger players take hold of our system and the athleticism is starting to show on the diamond,” said Moranda on his squad’s progress through fall practices.
Official practice for the 2011 season is scheduled to commence on Feb. 1, with the first pitch scheduled for Feb. 18.