FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
Cullowhee, N.C. – A 31-game home schedule including hosting Atlantic Coast Conference foes Clemson and Wake Forest, as well as Washington State from the Pac-12 highlight Western Carolina’s 2013 baseball schedule unveiled today by sixth-year head coach Bobby Moranda. The 56-game slate also features road trips to SEC-foes Georgia and Tennessee, with traditional home-and-homes with the Tigers and mountain-rival, UNC Asheville, in addition to the rigorous 30-game conference schedule.
The season opens in mid-February with three games against the Washington State Cougars in Cullowhee and culminates with the 2013 Southern Conference Baseball Championship at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C., May 22-26.
“Playing tough schedules, it’s the `Western Way.’ It’s been this way since Jack Leggett, Keith LeClair, Rodney Hennon, Todd Raleigh,” said Moranda. “We like to play great competition as it better prepares us for our tough Southern Conference schedule. Playing great teams helps you find out where you are as a team, what you need to work on and makes you better overall.”
Five of WCU’s 2013 opponents – and a combined 12 games on the slate – are teams that participated in last year’s NCAA baseball championship tournament. WCU also faces four teams for the first time in program history including Washington State (Feb. 15-17), Cincinnati (Feb. 24), Longwood (Feb. 26-27) and Hofstra (March 2-3).
The Catamounts’ schedule has just one extended road swing of five-straight games away from Cullowhee coming in late April, which comes on the heels of a season-long, nine-game home stand that includes conference contenders, Samford (April 12-14) and Georgia Southern (April 19-21).
Western Carolina opens the 2013 season inside the friendly confines of Childress Field / Hennon Stadium against Washington State out of the Pac-12 with a three-game set on February 15-17. The Cougars are coming off a .500 season at 28-28, but secured wins over then sixth-ranked Oregon, eighth-ranked Cal State Fullerton, No. 6 Arizona, as well as Arizona State and Mississippi State in 2012. Again, it’s the first-ever meeting between WCU and WSU on the diamond, with the two teams scheduled to meet again next season in Pullman, Washington.
The following week, the Catamounts welcome the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest to Cullowhee. The two in-state foes have not met since Wake’s extra inning victory in Winston-Salem back in 2011.
On the second weekend of the season, the Catamounts will take part in a three-game tournament at the site of this year’s conference championship, Fluor Field. WCU faces Michigan State – a regional participant a year ago – Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati.
“This tournament is hosted by Furman and is a `SoCon Challenge,’ of sorts. We’ll face some outstanding competition and it will be a good experience for our team and for our fans to come see us play. It’s also a chance to get on Fluor Field where our conference tournament will be played,” said Moranda.
The opening month of the season concludes with two mid-week, nonconference games against Longwood in Cullowhee.
March opens with three home games against Hofstra (March 2-3) before traveling to Athens, Ga., to face Georgia on Tuesday, March 5. The Catamounts upset the then eighth-ranked Bulldogs a year ago, erasing a one-run deficit with three markers in the top of the fifth inning with Adam Curtis tossing 6.2 innings in the win while Preston Hatcher scored the save, working the final 1.2 frames.
The Georgia game opens a stretch where eight of nine games will be played on the road as the lone home date comes on March 13 against nonconference foe, Eastern Kentucky. Western Carolina opens Southern Conference play the second weekend of March, traveling to Davidson (March 8-10) for a three-game set, before venturing to the South Carolina Lowcountry for three against the College of Charleston Cougars on March 15-17.
The stretch concludes with a road contest at Tennessee in Knoxville on Wednesday, March 20.
Four of the next five weekends include home conference series for the Catamounts in Cullowhee. WCU hosts Elon (March 22-24) and The Citadel (March 29-31) in consecutive weekends before visiting Furman (April 5-7) in league action. As a part of a nine-game home stand, Western Carolina hosts the two teams which battled for last year’s league crown in Samford (April 12-14) and Georgia Southern (19-21).
Sprinkled amidst the weekend league series are nonconference games including home-and-homes against Gardner-Webb (away March 27, home April 17), UNC Asheville (home April 2, road April 3), Kennesaw State (home April 23, away May 1) and Clemson (home April 9, away April 24). The Catamounts also visit Wake Forest on March 26.
Two of WCU’s final three conference series will be played on the road including a three-game series at UNCG (April 26-28) before hosting Wofford May 10-12. The regular season concludes with a three-game series against archrival Appalachian State May 16-18 in Boone, N.C.
Moranda and the Catamounts return the bulk of their squad from last year’s 32-24 team. WCU brings back eight hitters which batted over .300 last season including senior Tyler White, who hit .354 in helping the Catamounts pace the SoCon with a .310 average, collectively. A total of 128 of the team’s 155 extra base hits (82.6%) from 2012 are back including 30 of the team’s 39 home runs (76.9%).
White paced the squad with 16 doubles, just ahead of sophomore Jacob Hoyle who had 14 and was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America selection by Collegiate Baseball.
On the hill, WCU returns 30 of its 32 victories (93.8%) including six-game winners in redshirt senior Morgan McKinney and classmate closer Preston Hatcher, who also had a team-high 10 saves en route to being tabbed first team All-SoCon. Six pitchers – all returners – had four-or-more wins including mid-week starting ace, senior Adam Curtis who had five victories, and weekend hurlers Jordan Smith and All-Freshman selection, Jeremy Null, with four wins apiece.
All told, WCU’s pitching staff returns 349 of its 399 strikeouts (87.5%) from last year.
Western Carolina is amidst its fall practices in preparation for the 2013 season. Currently enjoying WCU’s fall break, the team has worked through 21 of its allotted 27 practice dates that spans a NCAA-regulated 45-day period. The team returns to campus for three practices this weekend, Oct. 19-21, before opening its final week of fall ball with the annual, three-game Purple & Gold College Fall World Series spanning Tuesday through Saturday, Oct. 23 through 27, depending upon weather.
“Our guys have worked extremely hard this fall and we’ve had tremendous preparation for our upcoming 2013 season,” said Moranda. “We have high expectations for this year’s team.”
The two teams in the three-game intrasquad finale will be drafted and managed by volunteer assistant, Brandon Johnson, and undergraduate assistant, Kyle Deese – both former pitchers for the Catamount baseball team.
Moranda hopes to hold the final game of the scrimmage series on Saturday, Oct. 27, prior to WCU football’s showdown with archrival Appalachian State in the “Battle for the Old Mountain Jug.”