Feb. 15, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. -
With four-straight home games to christen the new season of Catamount Baseball at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium, Western Carolina opens its 2013 season on Friday afternoon in the first of a three-game, nonconference series with Washington State. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 4:00 pm with the remainder of the series slated for 2:00 pm on Saturday and Noon on Sunday.
Fans can follow all three games online through CatamountSports.com with live GameTracker (free) and streaming video (subscription) through Catamount All-Access. Sunday's series finale is slated to be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network with streaming audio (free) available through Stretch Internet at CatamountSports.com.
Coming off a 32-win season a year ago, WCU starts its quest for a 21st Southern Conference championship and a return to the NCAA post-season on Friday afternoon in Cullowhee. Sixth-year head coach Bobby Moranda will hand the ball to sophomore right-hander Jeremy Null, who was the Sunday starter during his freshman season to open the year. A Friday starter his first two seasons, junior RHP Jordan Smith will move to the Saturday slot with redshirt senior southpaw Morgan McKinney scheduled to start Sunday's finale.
Facing the Catamounts on Opening Weekend are the Washington State Cougars out of the Pac-12 Conference. It is the first-ever meeting between the two programs on the diamond. The Cougars finished 28-28 a season ago, but secured victories over then sixth-ranked Oregon, eighth-ranked Cal State Fullerton, No. 6 Arizona, as well as perennial favorites Arizona State and Mississippi State in 2012.
Washington State set a school record for fielding percentage at .978 last season, only committing 48 errors, the fewest in their aluminum bat era (1974-present). The Cougars do have to replace a lot offensively, though as the top-five WSU hitters last season were all selected in the 2012 MLB Draft and signed professional contracts. Washington State returns each of the six pitchers who made a start for the Cougars last season while also bring back the top-six innings totals from 2012.
WCU holds a 3-2 all-time record against teams currently in the Pac-12. Most recently, WCU took 2-of-3 from then 24th-ranked USC in Los Angeles, with the other two meetings coming in NCAA post-season play. The Catamounts first faced Stanford, winning 5-0 in the 1992 NCAA South II Region held in Tallahassee, Fla., before falling to Arizona State in the 1994 NCAA Mid-East Regional in Knoxville, Tenn. WSU is the first Pac-12 team to visit Cullowhee - and the second California team to do so in recent years as Tony Gwynn's San Diego State Aztecs game to town in 2011.
Washington State is 1-0 all-time against current members of the Southern Conference having defeated Davidson in 1991.
Western Carolina has won four-straight opening day games entering Friday's season debut, and have claimed six-straight opening weekend series including scoring sweeps in the last four consecutive.
Preseason predictions for the SoCon and the Catamounts have been as varied as the February weather in the mountains of Western North Carolina. WCU was picked second by the league's head coaches but sixth by the voting media in the official SoCon tabulations. The Catamounts have also been tabbed anywhere from fourth by Baseball America; second by CollegeBaseballDaily.com; and to win that illusive 21st all-time conference championship by College Baseball Today.
WCU returns all 56 starts and 30 victories on the mound from last season's 32-win team, as well as nine of the 10 position starters. The roster has five preseason All-SoCon players - the most of any squad in the league - and two players selected to All-America squads as Jacob Hoyle was a Freshman All-America selection and Preston Hatcher was Preseason Third Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball.
The Catamount pitching staff returns all three weekend starters and two mid-week hurlers that saw starts a season ago. Offensively, WCU brings back eight hitters that batted over .300 last season including Tyler White who hit .354 to help the Catamounts lead the SoCon with a collective .310 average. A total of 128 of the team's 155 extra base hits are back in the Catamount lineup.
WCU's schedule features five 2013 opponents - and a combined 12 games - against teams that participate in last year's NCAA baseball championship tournament, while also facing four teams for the first time in program history - beginning with Washington State.
First pitch of the 2013 season is scheduled for 4:00 pm on Friday afternoon.
Probable Pitching Match-ups (2012 Stats)
Friday, Feb. 15 - 4:00 pm - Cullowhee:
WCU So. RHP Jeremy Null (4-4, 5.05 ERA) vs. WSU So. RHP Tanner Chleborad (4-3, 4.24 ERA)
Saturday, Feb. 16 - 2:00 pm - Cullowhee:
WCU Jr. RHP Jordan Smith (4-5, 3.48 ERA) vs. WSU So. LHP Joe Pistorese (4-3, 2.44 ERA)
Sunday, Feb. 17 - 12:00 pm - Cullowhee:
WCU Sr. LHP Morgan McKinney (6-3, 3.74 ERA) vs. WSU So. RHP Scott Simon (2-3, 4.09 ERA)