CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Western Carolina Head Softball Coach Jim Clift today announced the 2018 Catamount softball schedule. The Catamounts participate in four tournaments playing their first 15 dates on the road.
“This will be a very challenging schedule and we are very excited to attack it” Clift said.
The Catamounts will face four teams who earned conference titles in 2017. James Madison, whom Western Carolina will face in the Jacksonville Tournament, won the Colonial Athletic Association, Auburn won the 2017 SEC title knocking off LSU 6-0, USC Upstate won the Atlantic Sun and ETSU won the Southern Conference Tournament title.
Western Carolina opens the season with four tournaments that will take the team through North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky. The Catamounts open the season Feb. 16 when the team participates in a tournament hosted by Gardner-Webb. WCU then searchers for warmer weather when the team travels to Jacksonville University, in Jacksonville, Fla., for a tournament Feb. 23-25.
The Catamounts will get a taste of the Southeastern Conference in quick volley as WCU participates in a tournament at Auburn University March 2-3. Western Carolina will put a halt on the tournament circuit when the team plays a single game at Georgia March 7.
The tournament portion of the schedule concludes when the Catamounts travel to Eastern Kentucky University for a tournament March 9-11.
Western Carolina rounds out its 15-date road swing, to open the season, by traveling to former Southern Conference foe Appalachian State for a doubleheader March 14.
“We play four very challenging tournaments early on at Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville, Auburn and Eastern Kentucky,” Clift admitted. “During that time, we will play Central Florida twice, Penn State, JMU, and Auburn twice. In between those tournaments, we will stop by and play a game with Georgia. We will play a solid non-conference schedule, adding Appalachian State back into the mix. We are very excited to play our old former conference rival again.”
Western Carolina finally hosts its home opener on March 20 when the Catamounts host Presbyterian. Other non-conference home opponents include Winthrop, North Carolina Central, USC Upstate, and Radford. The Remaining non-conference road games include trips to Charlotte and North Carolina A&T. The Catamounts will welcome Southern Conference teams UNCG, Chattanooga, and Mercer.
“Conference, as usual, will be very exciting,” Clift said. “I expect everyone to have improved. It seems most everyone will be returning key players to their squads. There will be no easy series this year for anyone.”
The 2018 Southern Conference Championships will be held in Greensboro, N.C. on the UNCG campus May 9-12.
A youthful squad in 2017, Western Carolina battled the whole season as the 18-30 record didn’t reflect the way the season ended. The culmination of that battle was the Catamounts performance in the 2017 SoCon Championships. After dropping the opening game to eventual SoCon Tournament winner ETSU, the Catamounts battled back to upset No. 2 seed Furman 4-1.
The Catamounts exited the tournament dropping a thriller to No. 1 seed UNCG 6-5. Junior Madison Armstrong was a 2017 Southern Conference All-Tournament selection. In the three games WCU played in the championships, she had a scorching .500 batting average, she did not strike out in 10 at-bats with five hits, four runs and two doubles and also added a .700 slugging percentage.
“I am very excited to see our team compete this spring,” Clift said. “There is something very special with what has been building. We finished very well last year and the core of that team is returning. The pitchers came back from the summer game ready and I believe we have some freshman who will make an immediate impact right from the start. This is a very close and tight-knit squad. They love to work together and compete together.”
The Catamounts will also have a different look in the coaching ranks as former UNCG softball standout Lindsay Thomas joined the coaching ranks as Clift’s assistant after the departure of Danielle Glosson.
“I am very excited to be coaching with such a great competitor,” Clift said. “While Lindsay Thomas was playing at UNCG, she was always a force to be reckoned with.”