May 21, 2013
Greenville, S.C. - Southern Conference regular season champion and top-seeded Western Carolina opens its quest for a conference-leading 10th tournament championship on Wednesday afternoon as it battles the eighth-seeded Samford Bulldogs with first pitch scheduled for 1:30 pm at Fluor Field. The 29th-ranked Catamounts seek their first conference tournament title since 2003.
Beginning on Wednesday afternoon - and continuing prior to each WCU game with first pitch scheduled for after Noon throughout the tournament - the Catamount Club will sponsor "Catamount Central" at Mac's Speed Shop (930 South Main Street, www.macspeedshop.com). Catamount fans are invited out for a pre-game gathering two hours prior to the scheduled first pitch.
Each game WCU plays in the 2013 SoCon Baseball Championship will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard online with streaming audio (free) at www.CatamountSports.com . Fans can also watch the games with free video streaming through the Southern Conference website at www.SoConSports.com.
Western Carolina (38-18, 23-7 SoCon) claimed the program's 21st SoCon title all-time - and the 12th regular season crown - after sweeping Wofford for its fourth-consecutive, three-game conference series sweep. The Catamounts finished the regular season with a school-record 23 SoCon victories, rattling off another school benchmark in 16-straight league wins. WCU's 38 seasonal wins are the most under sixth-year head coach Bobby Moranda, while also representing the 25th, 30-plus win in program history.
Wednesday marks just the second meeting all-time between WCU and Samford in the SoCon tournament. The two met for the first-time in last year's tournament with the Bulldogs claiming a 7-0 victory en route to the 2012 SoCon tournament championship. Last year, the Catamounts' league-leading offense was stymied by four Bulldog pitchers, holding WCU to just four base hits and off the scoreboard in the tournament opener.
WCU enters the 2013 tournament as the top seed, its highest seeding since 2003 when it was also the number one seed. The Catamounts are in a bracket with first-round opponent, eighth-seeded Samford, as well as No. 4 seed The Citadel and No. 5 seed Appalachian State. There are 19 combined SoCon tournament championships among the four teams in the top portion of the SoCon tournament (WCU, 9; The Citadel, 8; App State, 1; Samford, 1).
All told, the Catamounts recorded a 7-2 record against teams in its bracket.
Western Carolina swept Samford (27-28, 12-17 SoCon) in the three games held in Cullowhee back on April 12-14, snapping a five-game losing skid to the Bulldogs. Overall, the 16-game series between the two stands tied at 8-8.
In this year's regular season series opener, the Bulldogs erased a five-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning with two, two-run home runs and a solo shot that knotted the game at eight. WCU rallied in the home half of the ninth, loading the bases before Aaron Attaway who dropped a hit into right field to drive home Luke Gragg and give the Catamounts the walk-off win.
WCU pounded out 18 hits including 11 for extra bases and capitalized on 11 walks from Samford pitching in game two, cruising past the Bulldogs, 21-7, to claim the series before completing the sweep behind an eight-inning pitching performance by Jordan Smith to win, 5-2. Smith struck out eight while limiting the Bulldogs to just eight hits to score the victory.
First team All-SoCon outfielder Julian Ridings paced the Catamount offense in the series with Samford, hitting .643 (9-for-14) with two doubles and two home runs, scoring seven runs with four RBI. Junior Adam Martin, a second-team all-conference selection at catcher, was just behind his classmate with a .625 average in the series, finishing 5-for-8 with two walks.
SoCon Media Player of the Year Tyler White drove in six runs on 8-for-15 hitting, doubling twice and belting a home run. All told, the Catamounts outhit Samford, .409-to-.303, in the three-game series and outscored the Bulldogs, 35-to-17.
Western Carolina is scheduled to start second team All-SoCon selection, sophomore right-hander Jeremy Null (8-2) on Wednesday while Samford will counter with left-hander Eric Wright (5-3) who did not pitch against the Catamounts in the regular season series. Null tossed 6.2 innings in his Friday start in the Samford series, scattering seven hits and surrendering three earned runs while striking out five against five walks.
First pitch on Wednesday is scheduled for 1:30 pm.