Oct. 4, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Opening its fall team practice preparations on Friday, Sept. 13, the defending Southern Conference regular season champion Western Carolina Catamount baseball team reached the mid-point of its off-season fall workouts this weekend.
The squad will have two intrasquad scrimmages this weekend - one held Friday afternoon and the second slated for Saturday morning at approximately 10:45 am at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Following the second intrasquad, the team will take the University's annual Fall Break. Once the team returns to campus, the Catamounts will have nine practice days remaining with the scheduled Fall College World Series intrasquad penciled in between October 22-27 (weather permitting).
"Here near the mid-point of our fall, our entire system has been installed. It's now about executing and playing baseball within our system and competing," said WCU head coach Bobby Moranda. "The fall is all about teaching our system and building a team. We've got talent across the field, but we're looking to build team toughness. We feel if we can come together, we can go far."
Fall team practice sessions followed an early fall of individual drill sessions with the Catamount coaching staff. WCU opened its NCAA-regulated 27 practice dates over a 45-day period in mid-September, continuing the aggressive Athletic Performance regiment of lifting four-times a week in addition to conditioning. Off the field, the Catamounts are also very active with film study with the coaches.
"I feel we're right on pace with where we want to be," Moranda said. "The weather has been great allowing us to get all of our work in."
Moranda mentioned that several players have been limited during the off-season workouts, but mostly on the precautionary front in preparation for the start of preseason practice in late January, early February. Despite the limitations, he stated that it has allowed more opportunities and more reps for the younger players to get into the rotation.
Western Carolina returns 22 players who played on last year's 39-20, regular season championship squad including eight position players that started 29-or-more games.
"It is really nice having a lot of returning players and upper classmen. It's nice having a lot of leadership," said Moranda of his junior-and-senior laden squad. "They know the system and know what to expect. Now, it's about working hard individually, getting better to help the team."
Last season's earlier-than-expected exit from the SoCon Baseball Championship hasn't set well with the returning players and WCU's head coach entering fall individual and now team workouts.
"Our guys are hungry - the way we went out last spring left a bad taste in our returning player's mouths. We were very proud of what we accomplished last season, but want a lot more. The guys are very motivated entering this fall. We've used phrases like `unfinished business' during this fall workout," said Moranda.
Joining the fold this fall are 10 newcomers which includes nine freshmen and a sophomore. Seven of the incoming players have pitching experience with two listed as infielders, two as outfielders and a catcher.
"I like our newcomers," said Moranda. "They are very talented. Now the key is having them execute our system without thinking just reacting."
WCU returns to the practice diamond on Saturday morning for a final scrimmage before Fall Break, with the fall practice season to conclude in late October.
Additional Catamount Diamond Notes:
Martin Dubbed Top Prospect from the Northwoods League
Western Carolina senior catcher Adam Martin was dubbed the No. 1 prospect out of the summer wooden-bat Northwoods League it was announced this week. Martin batted .315 (84-of-267) on the summer with 29 extra base hits including 18 doubles, a triple and 10 home runs. All told, he tallied 25 multi-hit games en route to earning both mid-season and post-season all-star plaudits.
During the Mid-Season All-Star festivities, the Marietta, Ga., native claimed the Northwoods League Home Run Derby, finishing with 25 homers in the three-round event including 12 in the final round alone. Martin was also selected to play in the Big League Dreams Showcase, hitting three-run home run to lead his squad to victory.
In addition to catching during the summer, Martin played a myriad of positions including outfield and at first base.
Three Former Catamounts Collect Professional Championships
WCU had a three former players earn championships with their respective professional teams this past summer. Nick Liles was a part of the Gary Southshore American Association championship team while 2013 team members Tyler White and Preston Hatcher both collected post-season titles with the Tri-City ValleyCats and Schaumburg Boomers, respectively.
Liles, who returned stateside after being acquired from the Winnipeg Goldeyes in mid-July, helped guide the Gary Southshore Railcats to the independent league, American Association championship. Liles was originally selected in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
One of WCU's most recent draft picks - 2013 SoCon Media Player of the Year, Tyler White - also collected a post-season championship on the heels of the regular season title he helped his Catamount teammates capture. White played 18 games with both the Astros' Gulf Coast League and Greeneville (Tenn.) Astros in the rookie Appalachian League before being called up to the Tri-City ValleyCats in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League.
After being drafted, former Catamount White batted .322 collectively through his three stops with 14 doubles and six home runs while also walking 27 times and driving in 52. White hit .286 over a 28-game span including two doubles and three home runs, driving in 25 runs in helping the ValleyCats rally to claim the New York-Penn League championship.
And finally, Hatcher joined the independent league Boomers in mid-June as a set-up guy. The Roswell, Ga., native - and WCU's all-time leader in career saves - saw action in 23 games, tossing 23 innings with a 4.30 ERA. Hatcher finished 2-3 overall with 22 strikeouts.