May 17, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina hosts archrival Appalachian State for a three-game Southern Conference series on the baseball diamond beginning tonight (Thursday) at 5:00 pm at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Game two is slated for a 5:00 pm first pitch on Friday with the series and regular season culminating on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 pm.
Prior to first pitch on Saturday, WCU will honor its four seniors in a special pre-game ceremony. Also on Saturday, the "Celebration of Catamount Baseball" is scheduled for 6:00 pm in the Grand Ballroom in the A.K. Hinds University Center.
Coverage of all three games will vary this weekend. Fans can follow all three games with live GameTracker (free) and video streaming through Catamount All-Access (subscription). The first game of the series will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with live streaming audio (free) online at www.CatamountSports.com. Friday's game will be broadcast by the Appalachian IMG Sports Network and can be heard online at GoASU.com.
The SoCon's regular season championship and tournament seeding are on the line as the two mountain rivals square-off beginning on Thursday. With one weekend remaining, Appalachian State is inching towards its first league title since 1987. The magic number for the Mountaineers to clinch at least a share of the regular season title is two versus the College of Charleston - meaning any combination of two ASU wins and/or CofC losses at ninth-place UNCG will give the ASU the crown.
Elon can still sneak into a share of the title by sweeping The Citadel (the Phoenix took game one, 2-1, on Wednesday); if WCU sweeps ASU and CofC drops at least two at UNCG.
While the battle brews at the top of the standings, the Catamounts are in a slugfest for seeding of their own with Georgia Southern and The Citadel. WCU and GSU are tied in the standings with identical 14-13 league marks with the Eagles holding the tie-breaker after winning last week's series in Statesboro. For WCU to secure the five seed, it needs to be one-better than GSU this weekend as the Eagles visit last-place Wofford.
The Bulldogs loss in game one against Charleston gives WCU some breathing room at the No. 6 seed. If Western Carolina is able to win one game, it would secure at least a .500 finish in league play and would be locked into the sixth-seed as the Catamounts hold the tie-breaker over The Citadel by virtue of its series win back on March 9-11 in Charleston.
This year marks the first series meeting between the Catamounts and Mountaineers to be played in Cullowhee since 2009 after schedule realignment in the SoCon had WCU traveling to Boone the past two years. ASU took the series a year ago, two-games to one, with the Catamounts preventing the sweep with a 13-7 victory on Sunday. In 2010, the two squads met five times including twice in the conference tournament and three times in Boone. The teams both finished 2-2-1 overall.
In the most recent Cullowhee series meeting, the Catamounts swept the Mountaineers at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium in 2009, winning 4-0, 14-11 and 4-3. WCU leads the all-time series, 73-43-1.
Western Carolina comes into the game after having stumbled of late, dropping 2-of-3 at Georgia Southern last weekend before falling, 11-5, on Tuesday night at home to Winthrop. Appalachian State has won five of its last seven games - and 12 of its last 14 overall. The Mountaineers took two from third-place Samford in Birmingham last weekend before downing Gardner-Webb, 5-3, in Boone.
Two of the top hitting teams in the league all-season long will face-off as WCU enters the game with a league-high, .312, batting average with a SoCon-best 569 hits on the season, just ahead of ASU's .311 average and 530 hits. The difference in the series could come on the mound as the Mountaineers rank second in team ERA at 3.75, while the Catamounts have slipped to fifth at 4.06 on the year. Opponents are hitting just .255 against the Mountaineer hurlers while WCU's foes are hitting .263 collectively.
On Thursday night, Western Carolina (30-21, 14-13 SoCon) will start reigning SoCon Pitcher of the Week, Jordan Smith, who is coming off a five-hit, complete game shutout of Georgia Southern last Friday. He will match-up against ASU's Ryan Arrowood, who boasts a 9-0 overall record and a 3.66 ERA.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 pm on both Thursday and Friday nights.
Thursday, May 17 - 5:00 pm - Cullowhee
WCU So. RHP Jordan Smith (4-4, 3.19 ERA) vs. ASU Sr. RHP Ryan Arrowood (9-0, 3.66 ERA)
Friday, May 18 - 5:00 pm - Cullowhee
WCU Jr. LHP Morgan McKinney (6-3, 3.79 ERA) vs. ASU Sr. RHP Seth Grant (6-2, 2.82 ERA)
Saturday, May 19 - 1:00 pm - Cullowhee
WCU Fr. RHP Jeremy Null (4-4, 4.88 ERA) vs. ASU Jr. LHP Rob Marcello (6-3, 4.28 ERA)