FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina and seventh-year head coach Bobby Moranda today unveiled the 2014 Catamount baseball schedule that includes nine opponents that won 30-or-more games last spring. WCU’s 56-game slate features a rigorous 27-game Southern Conference slate and five nonconference home-and-home mid-week series, as well as the second west coast trip in program history with a four-game set scheduled for Pullman, Wash., at Washington State.
The season opens in mid-February with three games against the Ohio Bobcats in Cullowhee and culminates with the 2013 Southern Conference Baseball Championship at Joseph P. Riley Park in Charleston, S.C., May 20-25. Four of WCU’s nine SoCon tournament titles all-time have been won in Charleston.
“In the tradition of Western Carolina Catamount baseball, we feel like we’ve put together another outstanding schedule for this season,” said Moranda. “In addition to the tough Southern Conference slate, we’ve scheduled opponents from numerous premier leagues not only across the region, but across the country. Our schedule features some very tough road games against teams that are historically among the post-season conversation.”
Four of WCU’s 2014 opponents and a combined eight games come against teams that participated in last year’s NCAA baseball championship tournament. Those foes include Clemson (March 4 & April 23), Georgia Tech (March 11), East Tennessee State (March 19 & 25), and SoCon tournament champion, Elon (March 21-23) on the road. Nine of the Catamounts’ games are against teams from power NCAA conferences including four against WSU out of the Pac-12, four against the ACC and one meeting with SEC-foe, Georgia (March 9) in tournament action at Foley Field in Athens.
All told, WCU – which finished 39-20 and 23-7 in league play a year ago – will enjoy a season-long five-game home stand in late February into early March, with two, five-game road swings in mid-March and late April.
Coming off the program’s 12th SoCon regular season championship – and the 21st combined league title in school history – Western Carolina opens its 2014 season at home, hosting Ohio for a three-game nonconference series Feb. 14-16 at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The season-opening series represents the first meetings between the Catamounts and Bobcats since 1983 – a three-game home series sweep by WCU, outscoring the visitors, 24-to-11. WCU has won its season-opening series for seven-consecutive years.
Following the opening set, the Catamounts travel across the country to revisit Washington State, who came to Cullowhee a season ago. WCU took two of the three in the 2013 season-opening series, improving to 5-3 all-time against teams from the Pac-12. The four-game set is scheduled for Feb. 21-24.
Returning from the west coast, WCU hosts a season-long, five-game home stand, bookended by teams from the Palmetto State. The Catamounts host the front-end of a home-and-home with Winthrop on Feb. 26 with Clemson traveling to Cullowhee on March 4 to conclude the stand. In between, WCU welcomes La Salle to Childress Field / Hennon Stadium for the first meeting since 1985 when the Explorers edged the Catamounts, 13-12, in the NCAA East Regional in Columbia, S.C.
Western Carolina’s March schedule includes participating in tournament action at the University of Georgia’s Foley Field with the first-ever meetings against North Florida (March 7) and Buffalo (March 8) before battling the host Bulldogs on March 9. WCU has won back-to-back road games over the Bulldogs including a 12-7 road victory last spring. The month also features home meetings with Rider (March 14-16) and Wofford (March 28-30) in league play with the Catamounts playing their league-opening series on the road at defending tournament champion, Elon.
Also in the March mix is a home-and-home with former – and future – SoCon foe, East Tennessee State (March 19, 25) with the first of two seasonal meetings with Kennesaw State (March 12, May 13) on the road. WCU also travels to Georgia Tech mid-week on March 11 for the first series meeting since 2009 when the Catamounts split with the Yellow Jackets, edging the then fourth-ranked ACC squad, 10-9, in Cullowhee in the most recent meeting.
Ten of WCU’s 18 games in the month of April will be played away from the friendly confines of Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Road games in conference include trips to UNCG (April 4-6) and Samford (April 25-27) with mid-week clashes with UNC Asheville (April 9), Winthrop (April 15) and Clemson (April 23). The Catamounts will play a neutral field game with Wake Forest (April 30) in Shelby, N.C., at the home of the America Legion World Series. Home series include league match-ups with Furman (April 11-13) and The Citadel (April 18-20) with mid-week meetings with UNCA (April 1) and Presbyterian (April 8).
The Catamounts are set to play seven of their final 10 at home in Cullowhee including league-series with archrival Appalachian State (May 2-4) and season-finale against Davidson, May 15-16. WCU also plays the back-end of a home-and-home with Kennesaw State on May 13. The final SoCon regular season meeting with Georgia Southern takes place in Statesboro, Ga., on May 9-11, WCU’s lone road games in the month of May ahead of the conference tournament in Charleston, S.C.
Western Carolina returns seven of the nine hitters from a lineup that led the NCAA in home runs in 2013 with four returning players who hit .300-or-better a year ago. On the mound, the Catamounts bring back two-thirds of its weekend rotation with 23 of its 39 seasonal wins back. Additionally, WCU’s pitching staff returns 65-percent of its 490 strikeouts (320) from 2013.
“Coming off a great – yet unfinished – season a year ago, we have high expectations for this season. Even with all we accomplished, the team was not satisfied with where we finished up. With that as one of our driving forces, the guys have worked hard all fall and continue that through the early winter months as we gear up for the start of the 2014 season,” Moranda said.