May 4, 2012
Elon, N.C. - The Western Carolina baseball team opens a three-game Southern Conference series against the Elon Phoenix on Saturday evening at Latham Park at 6:30 pm. The series continues with another 6:30 pm start to Sunday evening's game before concluding with a 2:30 pm first pitch on Monday, May 7.
All three games will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard with streaming audio online at www.CatamountSports.com. Air time is 15 minutes prior to the scheduled first pitch.
Saturday's game marks the first meeting between the two in-state foes since the Catamounts claimed the epic, 20-inning affair in the opening round of the 2011 SoCon Baseball Championship at Riley Park. WCU scored twice in the top of the eighth inning to set the stage for the longest game in league history which encompassed over six and a half hours. The Catamounts twice pulled ahead in the visitors half of an inning, scoring in the top of the 14th and 19th innings only to see Elon respond in the bottom to knot the game back up.
The marathon culminated with a two-run home run by Ross Heffley as a part of a three-run rally in the top of the 20th inning as WCU pulled out the 10-7 victory.
Heffley enters this weekend again looking to make more history in the twilight of his Catamount career. The Snellville, Ga., native stands tied with Barrett Shaft (2005-08) atop the school's all-time career hits ledger, both with 336 base knocks while wearing the Purple & Gold. With his next hit, Heffley will become WCU's all-time leader in career hits. He is just 24 hits shy of the SoCon record held by Philip Hartig of The Citadel (1998-01).
Aside from the 20-inning victory, WCU went 1-3 against the Phoenix in 2011, dropping all three regular season meetings at home with two, one-run losses and a 9-6 score in the finale. All told, the Catamounts have dropped 11 of the last 14 meetings against Elon since 2008. WCU has dropped its last two series at Latham Park, falling two games to one in both series.
The Catamounts (27-17, 11-10 SoCon) enter the weekend having dropped five their last six games in league play including being swept at Samford before losing 2-of-3 over the weekend to the College of Charleston in Cullowhee. Despite the current slide, Western Carolina's last six conference games have been decided by a combined 12 runs including three, one-run ball games.
WCU was idle this week as the University administered final exams.
Elon (27-21, 16-8 SoCon) has played twice this week entering the three-game set with the Catamounts, splitting with Wake Forest on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Demon Deacons claimed a 7-5 victory over Elon in Winston-Salem in the first game of the mid-week home-and-home while the Phoenix avenged the loss with a 3-2 win over the Deacs on Wednesday at home.
The Phoenix has won three-straight in SoCon play, sweeping UNCG at home last weekend. However, Elon has dropped two of its last three league series, dropping two at Wofford (April 20-21) and at Furman (April 6-7). They did sweep Samford - winning one game in 18 innings - and took 2-of-3 from league-leader Appalachian State the week prior.
Elon is hitting .256 collectively as a team, averaging 5.1 runs score per game overall - marks that jump to .274 and 5.9 in league play. Catcher Alex Swim leads the team with a .357 average on the season, but is batting .426 in league play to headline four players over the .300-plateau in SoCon action. The Phoenix pitching staff boasts a 3.96 collective ERA and is holding opponents to a .248 batting average against.
Elon will start left-hander Dylan Clark (8-3) against WCU's sophomore right-hander Jordan Smith on Saturday evening. The Phoenix has yet to name a starter for both Sunday and Monday's games, but is expected to toss junior LHP Spencer Medick at some point during the weekend. Coming off his career-long showing of eight innings last Saturday, redshirt junior Morgan McKinney will start on Sunday with freshman Jeremy Null - who fanned a career-high tying eight last week - will start on Monday afternoon.
First pitch on Saturday evening is scheduled for 6:30 pm.
Projected Pitching Match-Ups:
Saturday: WCU - RHP Jordan Smith (So., 3-4, 3.21 ERA) vs. ELON - LHP Dylan Clark (8-3, 3.57 ERA)
Sunday: WCU - LHP Morgan McKinney (R-Jr., 6-2, 3.18 ERA) vs. ELON - TBA
Monday: WCU - RHP Jeremy Null (Fr., 4-2, 5.44 ERA) vs. ELON - TBA