Cullowhee, N.C. – A four-game season-opening homestand against Chicago State as a part of 26 home dates at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium highlight Western Carolina’s 53-game baseball schedule unveiled today by head coach Bobby Moranda. The schedule includes four, first-time opponents for WCU with three others rekindling head-to-head series that have lain dormant since at least 1992.
WCU’s 2020 schedule includes 24 different opponents – two which saw postseason play in an NCAA regional a year ago – representing 13 different national conferences including the Southern Conference. Highlighting WCU’s nonconference schedule are three games against the Big Ten Conference (Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern) and one against a Big XII member, Kansas, in the first-ever meeting between the Catamounts and Jayhawks on the diamond.
“We’ve compiled a very tough, competitive schedule that includes a solid nonconference slate leading up to our league play. We will be tested weekly heading into our Southern Conference schedule which remains as tough as any in the country,” said Moranda, WCU’s all-time winningest head coach (334 wins) who is entering his 13th-season in the Catamount dugout, matching Bill Haywood (1969-81) for the longest tenure as WCU skipper. “As we did through the fall, playing both Ohio State and Miami (Ohio), our 2020 schedule mirrors the tradition of past Catamount baseball teams. We always play a rigorous schedule to raise the bar and expectations, and I feel that this schedule does just that.”
Season tickets for WCU’s 2020 home schedule are on sale now through the Catamount Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401, or online at CatamountSports.com. Packages include general admission tickets for the upper grandstand bleacher areas, or reserved chairback seating options along the field level or directly behind home plate in the upper, covered seating areas. The 2020 baseball season ticket renewal deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 22 by 5:00 pm.
Single-game tickets sales for individual home games begin on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.
A total of eight games played on neutral fields dot the nonconference portion of WCU’s 2020 schedule including three to be played at the site of the 2020 SoCon Baseball Tournament – Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C. First, the Catamounts return to Myrtle Beach, S.C., in tournament play hosted by Coastal Carolina February 21-23 for three games against Illinois (B1G), Kennesaw State (ASUN), and first-time opponent, St. Joseph’s (A-10). The following weekend, WCU squares off against Ball State from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Big Ten-member Michigan State, and Kansas at the Fenway Park replica, February 28 through March 1.
Single-game home meetings with Sun Belt-members Georgia State (Feb. 26) and rival Appalachian State (March 3), and a home meeting with ASUN member Kennesaw State (April 7) combined with two-game midweek series with first-time foe Bryant (March 10-11) and Florida International (April 28-29) help to flesh out the home slate for the Purple & Gold this spring. The meetings with FIU are the first since 1984.
Other traditional nonconference home-and-home series include Gardner-Webb (home on April 25; away on April 15) and mountain-rival UNC Asheville (away on May 1, home on May 2).
The Catamounts travel to USC Upstate twice – playing a doubleheader with Northwestern and the Upstate Spartans on March 6 before returning for a single-game on March 31. WCU and Northwestern haven’t played since 1992 – a three-game road series sweep by the Catamounts in Evanston, Ill. – while WCU and USC Upstate have not met on the baseball diamond since 1989.
Western Carolina’s eight SoCon series are divided equally between home and road with ETSU (March 27-29), UNCG (April 7-10), Mercer (May 8-10), and Samford (May 14-16) each slated to come to Cullowhee. The Catamounts travel to both military schools – The Citadel (March 20-22) and VMI (April 3-5), as well as twice to the Upstate of South Carolina to face Furman (April 17-19) and Wofford (April 24-26).
All told, the Catamounts conclude the regular season with nine of their final 11 home games – six in SoCon play – all being played within the friendly confines of Childress Field / Hennon Stadium with one of the two road games coming in the home-and-home with UNCA. The other is a neutral field meeting with Moranda’s alma mater, Eastern Kentucky, played at beautiful Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio on Tuesday, May 12.
The 2020 Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases is scheduled for May 19-24 at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C. Teams will be seeded 1-thru-9 with the eight and nine seeds meeting in a single-elimination game on Tuesday, May 19.
Western Carolina returns seven position starters and nine pitchers including two starters from last year’s team that finished 21-32 overall, 8-16 in league play. Among the 12 total letter winners back for Moranda is the reigning SoCon Player of the Year, junior Justice Bigbie, who went on to claim Player of the Year accolades in the wooden-bat Northwoods League over the summer. He is flanked by All-SoCon hopefuls in seniors Luke Robinson and Andrew Bullock, as well as junior Daylan Nanny. Sophomore Colin Bertsch was the only other returning WCU player to collect postseason honors in 2019, named to the SoCon All-Freshman team.
On the mound, the Catamounts return hard-throwing RHP Chase Walter, who finished second in the SoCon with a career-best 114 strikeouts last spring. With eight wins and 188 strikeouts over his first two seasons in Cullowhee, Walter was drafted in the 32nd round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels. He is flanked by a host of returning arms including Joe Vranesic, Jacob Corn, Jack Snyder, Ryan Mitschele, and Ty McCulloch among the most-used a year ago – but is also surrounded by dozen-or-so new arms.
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