Cullowhee, N.C. - A 26-game home schedule including hosting a pair of SEC foes in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as five road games against ACC foes Louisville, North Carolina, and Clemson highlight Western Carolina's 2018 baseball schedule revealed today by head coach Bobby Moranda.
Among WCU's 56 game schedule includes nine combined games against five teams that were among the NCAA's post-season field a year ago. Those opponents include four NCAA regional site hosts, two teams that advanced to the Super Regionals, and one team -- Louisville -- that played in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
2018 Western Carolina Catamount Baseball Schedule
Complete coverage information including audio / video broadcasts will be announced at a later date.
"Once again, we feel like we've put together an outstanding schedule with quality competition," said Moranda, who is entering his 11th season at the helm of the Catamount baseball program. "In addition to the tough Southern Conference slate, we've scheduled opponents from numerous premier leagues not only across the region, but also the country. Our schedule features some very tough games against teams that are historically among the NCAA postseason conversation. The schedule is very competitive, very challenging, and will be great preparation for our team, while also fun for our fans to follow."
Western Carolina's 24 games in Southern Conference play show an even 12 games played at home and 12 on the road. Nine of WCU's first 12 league games will be played away from Cullowhee while the second half of the season includes nine of the dozen home meetings.
The Catamounts' 32-game nonconference schedule is nearly divided equally down the middle between home and road games, and features 14 home dates with 15 on the road, and three -- including the final two nonconference games of the regular season -- on a neutral field. WCU will face Tennessee Tech at the home of the Tennessee Smokies in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on March 21 and is slated to wrap-up the year against Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) at McNair Field, home of the Coastal Plain League (CPL) franchise, the Forest City (N.C.) Owls.
All told, WCU will play nine games in February, a season-high 20 games through March, with 16 games in April, and 11 games in May ahead of the conference tournament and NCAA postseason.
Western Carolina's home schedule features three-game nonconference series against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) member, Canisius (Feb 23-25) in the first-ever meeting between the two programs before back-to-back visits from Mid-American Conference (MAC) foes. Ball State (March 9-11), which finished tied for second in the MAC West a season ago, and Kent State (March 16-18), the champion of the MAC East Division, both visit Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.
Southern Conference home series include defending tournament champion -- and NCAA participant -- UNCG (April 6-8), with Mercer (April 20-22), ETSU (April 27-29), and Samford (May 12-14) rounding out the home series.
Framed by the opening three-game road series at ECU to start the year, the Catamounts' road ledger also includes three games at College World Series participant, Louisville (March 2-4), out of the ACC, as well as a two-game set against former SoCon-foe, Marshall (March 6-7). WCU also visits two additional ACC foes in North Carolina (April 25) and Clemson (May 9).
In SoCon road games, WCU open the conference slate with consecutive series at The Citadel (March 23-25) and Wofford (March 29-31), and includes road swings to VMI (April 13-15) and Furman (May 4-6).
WCU will also play four home-and-home sets including Morehead State (Feb. 20 & May 16); mountain-rival, Appalachian State (Feb. 27 and April 18); SEC-foe, Tennessee (March 14 & 27); and two games against UNC Asheville including a Feb. 28 meeting in Cullowhee and an April 4 date at historic McCormick Field in Asheville.
Coming off a 28-28 season that included a runner-up regular season finish and a 15-8 SoCon record, Western Carolina returns nearly 50-percent of its offense from a squad that ranked fourth in the league in many categories including batting average (.304), hits (591), and on-base percentage (.386). The Catamounts return five of the eight position starters including senior infielders Caleb Robinson and Cameron Blaquiere, with senior catcher Spencer Holcomb to be joined in the outfield by redshirt junior Matthew Koehler and sophomore Andrew Robinson.
On the mound, WCU will have a new look entering 2018 with just six returning hurlers from a season ago. Two starters -- southpaws Bryan Sammons (8-3, 3.02, 108 K) and Brendan Nail (6-8, 6.67, 100 K) -- are both playing professional baseball as Sammons was drafted in the eighth round by the Minnesota Twins while Nail was signed as an undrafted free agent by Boston while pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League during the summer.
The Catamounts will have to replace nearly 75-percent of the 488.2 innings pitched in 2017, while also needing to replace 40 starts and 365 strikeouts. Junior LHP Tristan Baker boasts the most starts among the returning pitchers with a dozen last spring, while upper classmen RHP Michael Davis (3) and LHP Corey Sikes (1) the only other arms to have started for the Purple & Gold.
WCU is scheduled to officially open team practice on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2018, in advance of the 2018 season.
Season tickets for the home portion of the 2018 Catamount baseball schedule are on sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office and online at CatamountSports.com. Pricing begins at just $50 for an adult general admission and $25 for youth and includes a $40 option for WCU faculty and staff. Reserved seating options in both field and upper level grand stands also available. The deadline for returning season ticket holders to renew their season tickets is January 19th with individual game tickets to go on sale in early February ahead of the home-opener on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
For more information, visit the WCU Athletics Ticket Office on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone at (828) 227-2401 or toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU, or log on to CatamountSports.com.