Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina returns to Southern Conference action this weekend, hosting the VMI Keydets for a three-game Southern Conference series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
SCHEDULE UPDATE: Game one is slated for 2:30 pm on Friday with the strong possibility of a double-header with game two on Friday, 30-minutes after game one if the weather is still cooperating. Saturday's first pitch is slated for 1:00 pm, pending the completion of game two.
Each game can be followed online with live GameTracker available through CatamountSports.com. The games on Friday are slated to be broadcast on the SoCon Digital Network with live streaming video available online.
Fans are encouraged to keep track of any weather-related schedule changes online at CatamountSports.com or through WCU Athletics' social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts or @WCUCatamountBSB).
Western Carolina (16-19, 7-5 SoCon) looks to shake-off a four-game losing skid as the Keydets come to Cullowhee, while VMI is amidst a five-game winless streak. The slides for both teams came on the heels of winning streaks -- WCU won seven-in-a-row including sweeping SoCon foes, The Citadel and ETSU. VMI (17-20, 4-8 SoCon) claimed four-straight wins including taking two to win the series over Wofford in Spartanburg. Last weekend, the Keydets were swept by first-place Mercer at home.
WCU leads the all-time baseball series with VMI, 60-17, after sweeping the three-game set a year ago in Lexington, Va., as a part of a four-game series win streak. The Catamounts outscored the Keydets, 42-to-19, last year, collecting a combined 42 base hits including 20 for extra bases -- seven doubles and 13 home runs.
WCU leads the series in games played in Cullowhee, 27-7, though the Keydets won the most recent conference series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium back in 2015. VMI claimed the series-opener before splitting a double-header to win the series over WCU in Cullowhee for the first-time since 2000.
All told, since moving to a three-game weekend series format in the mid-1980s, the Catamounts have win at least one game in every series meeting with VMI.
Four conference series -- and 12 games -- into the schedule, Western Carolina enters the weekend in third place in the conference race. The Catamounts are ranked tied for third in team batting average at .308, third with 131 total hits including 30 for extra bases including 17 doubles, three triples, and 10 home runs. WCU's pitching staff boasts the league's second-best team ERA in league play at 4.08, limiting opponents to an average of 4.75 runs per game.
Two of the top five strikeout pitchers in the SoCon are set to battle in Friday's opener as Western Carolina senior Bryan Sammons -- currently the winningest active pitcher in the league with 23 career victories -- squares-off against VMI sophomore Josh Winder. Sammons ranks fifth in the league with 66 punch outs while Winder is tied for second with 75 Ks to date. WCU's Sunday starter -- junior LHP Brendan Nail -- is tied for eighth with 58 strikeouts on the year.
Projected Pitching Match-Ups:
Game 1: WCU -- Sr. LHP Bryan Sammons (4-2, 3.02) vs. VMI -- Soph. RHP Josh Winder (5-3, 3.19)
Game 2: WCU -- Soph. LHP Tristan Baker (3-2, 6.46) vs. VMI -- Jr. RHP Matt Eagle (3-2, 4.06)
Game 3: WCU -- Jr. LHP Brendan Nail (3-6, 7.35) vs. VMI -- Jr. LHP Brandon Barbery (0-6, 6.31)
Catamount Baseball Game Notes:
- Catamount redshirt senior outfielder Bryson Bowman has reached base safely in 35-straight games this year -- each game that WCU has played this spring ... It is currently tied for the THIRD-longest active reached base safely streak in the country behind Taylor Braley of Southern Miss (38) and Matt Duce of Dallas Baptist (36) and matched by SIU Edwardsville's Dustin Woodcock ... Bowman leads the SoCon with a .480 on-base percentage;
- Bowman is currently riding a team -- and career -- best 20-game hitting streak that includes 12 multi-hit games including a run of six-straight games of two-or-more hits ... Bowman has 16 multi-hit games this season, second to just Brett Pope who has 17;
- Bowman is one of two Catamounts currently with double-digit reached base safely streaks, joined by classmate Matt Smith, 17, that includes a four-game hit streak ... Redshirt freshman Justin Sparks also has an active three-game hit streak;
- In dropping all three series games to Furman in Cullowhee last weekend, Western Carolina suffered its first three-game Southern Conference series sweep since 2012 -- a three-game road series loss at Samford ... It was the first time WCU had been swept at home in league play since 2011 against Elon in mid-March;
- According to the latest NCAA report, Western Carolina ranks 46th in the country for the toughest schedule ... Furman is second in the SoCon with a 64th toughest schedule;
- Head coach Bobby Moranda is sitting on 300 career coaching victories at Western Carolina ... Moranda ranks second in program history, just two wins shy of matching all-time winningest head coach, Jack Leggett (302, 1983-91) ... Moranda is already WCU's all-time winningest head coach in SoCon games (153).