FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina fifth-year head baseball coach Bobby Moranda today finalized and released the 2012 schedule for his squad that opens at home with a three-game series on February 17-19. The 55-game schedule includes seven, three-game weekend home series, as well as home-and-home meetings with perennial regional powers Clemson and Georgia, as well as East Tennessee State and mountain-rival, UNC Asheville.
The season culminates with the 2012 Southern Conference Baseball Championship at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C., May 23-27. It marks the first-time since 2009 that the tournament will be played in Greenville.
“We have once again compiled a good quality RPI schedule that has some excellent nonconference opponents that will help prepare us for play in a tougher-than-ever Southern Conference, and that will also help us towards getting back into the NCAA tournament,” said Moranda. “Our schedule is very competitive and very challenging – but will be fun for our fans to watch.”
The Catamounts 2012 slate includes one, five-game home stand with just one extended road swing coming in early May with back-to-back, three-game SoCon series at league contenders, Elon (May 5-7) and Georgia Southern (May 11-13).
Five of WCU’s opponents participated in last year’s NCAA Baseball Championship tournament.
Western Carolina opens the season with a three-game home stand Feb. 17-19 against Fordham at Ronnie G. Childress Field at Hennon Stadium. It is the first-ever meeting between the Catamounts and Rams on the diamond.
Following a mid-week road trip in the front-end of a home-and-home with Winthrop, WCU will take part in the Ninth Annual Keith LeClair Classic, hosted by East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. The Catamounts will face Maryland (Feb. 24), the host Pirates (Feb. 25) and Purdue (Feb 26) in the three-day event named after former WCU and ECU head coach, Keith LeClair.
February closes with the road portion of the home-and-home with Georgia (Feb. 29), with WCU hosting the Bulldogs in Cullowhee on April 3.
Western Carolina hosts the Iona Gaels in the first-ever meeting on the opening weekend of March as the part of five-straight home games. The home stand also includes hosting Duke (March 6) out of the Atlantic Coast Conference and East Tennessee (March 7). The meeting with the Blue Devils is the first since 1975.
The Catamounts open Southern Conference play with a road trip to Charleston, S.C., to face The Citadel for a three-game series at Riley Park March 9-11. WCU then won’t play another road game in league action until April 6-7 with a three-game set in Spartanburg, S.C., and Wofford College. Other road conference series include visiting Samford (April 20-22), Elon (May 5-7) and Georgia Southern (May 11-13).
WCU returns home to host the Clemson Tigers and former skipper Jack Leggett on March 14, returning to Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson on the back-end of the two-game series on April 4.
In mid-March, WCU travels to Jacksonville, Fla., for two games against the Dolphins and one against the Fairfield Stags. The meeting between the Catamounts and Jacksonville is the first since the 2007 NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, a 7-0 victory by WCU that bounced the Dolphins from the tournament. The following weekend, Western Carolina plays its first home conference series, hosting UNC Greensboro March 23-25.
Other home SoCon series include Davidson (March 30-April 1), Furman (April 13-15), College of Charleston (April 27-29) and the regular-season finale against archrival Appalachian State, May 17-19.
Moranda and the Catamounts have concluded both the team and individual portions of its off-season, and are scheduled to open preparations for the 2012 season in early January.
“We’ve got to be ready to come to play every day,” said Moranda. “We’ve taken a team approach ever since the last pitch of last year’s SoCon tournament in getting ready for 2012. I’m really looking forward to watching our sophomore class play as second-year players. You could tell when they arrived back in the fall that they had matured a lot from last season. The young guys that were every-day players in our lineup a season ago really got a lot of good experience.”
He added, “We’ve got some role players that are ready to make the next step – raise their game another level towards being big contributors for us this season. I think we’re coming together. We will be young on the mound, but will pitch to contact and let our defense work for us. Offensively, I think we’ll be able to score some runs with a good mix of righty and lefties.”