Feb. 5, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Less than two weeks shy of its 2013 season opener against the Washington State Cougars, Western Carolina continued its preseason preparations Tuesday afternoon at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Mild afternoon temperatures gave way to chilly conditions as the sun set behind the mountains and the lights took hold of the playing surface during the practice and scrimmage.
As opening day continues to draw closer, the Catamounts are beginning to ramp-up both reps in the field and innings on the mound for projected starters. WCU returns all 56 pitching starts on the bump from a season ago, while also returning nine of a possible 10 position starters.
Chased from the field due by weather - both rain and the wintry variety - head coach Bobby Moranda has taken full advantage of the dry weather the past few days to put his team into more game-like scenarios against live pitching with intrasquad games. After taking Sunday off, the team has scrimmaged both Monday and Tuesday with an additional scrimmage on the docket for Wednesday's practice.
Monday, senior left-handers Morgan McKinney and Jon Nadale started the scrimmage session. Coming off a six-win season a year ago, McKinney was relieved by sophomore Tyler Powell and freshman Colton Davis while the Californian, Nadale, gave way to redshirt sophomore Bryce Danielson, returning right-hander Taylor Sandefur and sophomore Danny Schneider.
During Tuesday's six-inning scrimmage, the squad started dueling southpaws in senior Adam Curtis and freshman Alex Barr, both of which threw three innings apiece. Curtis was relieved by classmate Hunter Brister - equipped with a tweaked pitching motion - with Schneider seeing action for the second-straight day. The rookie Barr was relieved by senior Preston Hatcher and Jacob Hoyle who tossed the final frame.
Redshirt freshman Austin Neary continued a torrid hitting pace through preseason, belting a towering solo home run in the home half of the first inning. Half a frame later, Hoyle walked before scampering home on a sacrifice fly by junior infielder Aaron Attaway to tie the scrimmage.
In the bottom of the second, the designated home squad took control as senior Bryant Noteboom singled to right field and was later plated on a RBI infield ground out by Cody Jones. Noteboom drove in his side's third run in the home half of the third on a sacrifice fly, scoring Dykota Spiess who reached on a double.
In the home half of the fifth, consecutive walks came back to bite the designated visiting team as freshman J.D. Long delivered a frozen rope to right center to load the bases. Consecutive two RBI singles, the latter by hot-hitting Spiess, made it 7-1 through five innings.
Neary concluded the scoring by driving in Jones with a double in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The team is scheduled to return to the diamond on Wednesday with pre-practice followed by live pitching in a third-straight intrasquad scrimmage. Many of the younger arms on the squad are slated to see action on the hill.
Among all of the preseason prognostications, the Catamounts have been tabbed anywhere from fourth by Baseball America; second by CollegeBaseballDaily.com; and to win its 21st all-time conference championship by College Baseball Today. The official Southern Conference preseason polls and all-conference teams as selected by the league's head coaches and voting media will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 7.