CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Western Carolina Head Softball Coach Jim Clift today announced the 2019 Catamount softball schedule. The Catamounts participate in three tournaments which include a spring break trip to California.

“We are excited to be playing another strong schedule, which starts with a very challenging pre-season,” Clift admitted. “We start on the road playing in tournaments at Alabama State, Georgia State and Loyola Marymount (California).”

Western Carolina opens the season Feb. 15 at a tournament hosted by Alabama State. The Catamounts will also travel to tournaments hosted by Georgia State (March 1-3) and then head west for a week participating in the Loyola Marymount tournament, in Los Angles on March 8-10 and a doubleheader at UC Santa Barbara March 12.

The Catamounts will face three teams who earned conference titles in 2018 and a total of five who participated in postseason play. Kennesaw State, whom Western Carolina will face in the Georgia State I-75 Challenge, won the ASun Championship, New Mexico State won the WAC Championship, and UNCG won the Southern Conference Tournament title with all earning automatic bids to the NCAA Regionals. Oregon State received an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional and Loyola Marymount, who is hosting the Catamounts in the LMU Challenge, won the 2018 Postseason National Invitational Softball Championship title.

“We will not only be playing strong mid-major programs this season, like Georgia State and Kennesaw State, but we will also play Power Five opponents like Georgia Tech (ACC), Virginia Tech (ACC) and Oregon State (PAC-12),” Clift said. “We play Oregon State twice while on our trip to California.”

Western Carolina opens the season with three tournaments that will take the team through Alabama, Georgia, and California. The Catamounts open the season Feb. 15 when the team participates in a tournament hosted by Alabama State. WCU then takes a short trip down south to face off in the Georgia State 1-75 Challenge. The Catamounts close out tournament play by winging their way to the West Coast to Los Angeles, Calif. to play in the LMU Tournament hosted by Loyola Marymount.

Between the Catamounts tournament schedule, Western Carolina will travel to Presbyterian on Feb. 20 and host Gardner-Webb in the home opener on Feb. 26. Before heading to California, to close out the tournament portion of the schedule, the Catamounts will host Sacred Heart in a single game on March 6.

Prior to leaving California, Western Carolina will travel to Santa Barbara on March 12 for a doubleheader with UC Santa Barbara.

After returning from the spring break trip in California, Western Carolina will jump right into Southern Conference play hosting ETSU on March 23-24. The Buccaneers are one of three SoCon teams WCU will welcome to Cullowhee which also includes Samford (April 6-7) and Furman (April 27-28).

Other non-conference home games include match-ups with Charlotte (March 27), North Carolina A&T (April 9) and former SoCon foe Appalachian State (April 23).

The remaining non-conference road games include trips to USC Upstate (April 3), Winthrop (April 17), Radford (April 24) and Virginia Tech (May 4).

The 2018 Southern Conference Championships will be held in Chattanooga, Tenn. and hosted by Chattanooga May 8-11.

“As always, our conference, and playing for a championship, makes for exciting softball,” Clift noted.

The Catamounts are led by senior outfielder Hunter Gibbons and senior catcher Madison Armstrong who each earned a spot on the 2018 SoCon All-Conference second team. In total, Western Carolina has four seniors which also includes Shaina Reed and Cheyenne Mathews.

“We have a number of new faces who I believe will make an impact on our team.,” Clift said. “We haven’t had this kind of depth in a long time. There are several different winning lineups on this roster. We have great leadership with a solid upper class and new blood with a hungry group of underclassmen. This is a team I am very excited to coach and the fan in me can’t wait to see play.”

Western Carolina had a wild time in the 2018 SoCon Championships losing a heartbreaker, as the No. 7 seeded Catamounts dropped fell to No. 2 seed Mercer 8-7 in the opening round of the tournament. The Catamounts came back and again lost by one run, 1-0, to No. 3 seed Furman in a walk-off. Then sophomore pitcher Kinsey Liscio tossed arguably her best game of the 2018 season going almost pitch for pitch with SoCon Pitcher of the Year Lindsey Bert. She tossed 6.1 innings giving up just three hits, one unearned run and struck out one. 

“I have a very strong coaching staff with Lindsay Thomas, in her second year and Kendall Fuller who is returning for her second run here at Western after a nice stint at Winthrop” Clift said. “Our trainer Carley Bishop rounds out our strong staff and has already done a great job of keeping our players healthy and on the field. Put all that with what our strength coach Evan Barr did with this team in the weight room and this team is ready to go.”