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  • Daniel Hooker

Baseball Welcomes Mountain-Rival UNC Asheville on Tuesday




Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina baseball returns home on Tuesday afternoon to open a five-game homestand looking to snap a four-game slide as the Catamounts welcome mountain-rival UNC Asheville to Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

 

Tuesday’s game is slated to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online through CatamountSports.com.

 

Western Carolina (3-4) puts its perfect home record (3-0) on the line as it hosts the Bulldogs (3-4) who are winless in four attempts away from Asheville this season. The Catamounts swept the Iona Gaels in three games to open the 2024 regular season before dropping four in a row on the road including a midweek matchup with Big South preseason favorite USC Upstate and three at Florida State in Tallahassee over the weekend.

 

UNCA dropped four-straight to open the season on the road against SEC competition as the Bulldogs were swept by Georgia including a pair of run-ruled games before battling No. 9 Tennessee to a  one-run, 3-2, decision in the midweek. Asheville is riding a three-game winning streak heading to Cullowhee after outscoring Bellarmine 50-to-19 to sweep the three games set at home.

 

After opening the season red-hot at the plate with a .349 batting average through its first four games, the Catamounts enter the week batting .278 on the season. A combined 28 of the team’s 66 base hits have gone for extra bases including 18 doubles, a pair of doubles, and eight home runs. Following the weekend series at Florida State, though, WCU is averaging 11.7 strikeouts per game offensively as the hitters have struck out double-digits in each of the last six games.

 

Senior outfielder Nate Stocum continues to lead the team with three homers – each coming in one game as he flirted with Skip Nelloms’ school-record of four that came against UNCA back in 1986. Junior transfer Trent Turner carries a team-best .441 batting average into the week as the Waynesville, N.C., product boasts a team-high 15 base hits including three doubles and two home runs and a team-best nine RBI. Producing some of the best at-bats in Tallahassee, senior utility Jack Spyke has eight base hits as a part of his .333 average, half going for extra bases with three doubles, a homer, and five RBI.

 

WCU turns to senior RHP Dante Visconti (0-0, 10.38 ERA) to make the start on Tuesday. A St. Johns, Fla., product, Visconti has three relief appearances to date, tossing 4.1 innings out of the bullpen with four strikeouts against two walks. Last season, he made 13 appearances with three starts, sidelined in the midseason by injury.

 

WCU’s pitching staff has a 7.32 collective ERA with 48 strikeouts over 59.0 innings of work this season.

 

Led by the program’s first-ever Big South Preseason Player of the Year Robbie Burnett, UNC Asheville was picked to finish in a tie for fourth in this year’s preseason Big South poll after a 26-26 finish a year ago. Burnett was joined on the inaugural Preseason All-Big South team by fifth-year outfield mate Dylan Bacot and senior reliever Justin Honeycutt.

 

Through the first seven games this season, the Bulldogs are batting .288 with 21 of their 65 hits going for extra bases including 14 doubles and seven home runs and is averaging 8.4 runs per game. Burnett is batting a team-leading .462 (12-for-26) with five extra-base hits including four homers and a double, driving home a team-best nine. Three regulars including Burnett are batting over .300 in Cameron Johnson (9-for-23, .391) and Michael Groves (9-for-27, .333).

 

On the mound, the Bulldogs have a team ERA of 8.78 with 53 strikeouts collectively. Groves, one of the top Bulldog batters, will also get the start on Tuesday. The Holly Springs, N.C., native made eight appearances a season ago and will make his second start of the season after tossing two innings at Tennessee back on Feb. 20, allowing a run on two hits – both of which went for extra bases with a double and a solo homer.

 

Western Carolina and UNC Asheville meet for the 81st time on the baseball diamond Tuesday with the Catamounts carrying a 55-25 series lead into the matchup. After dropping three straight – and losing eight of nine meetings between 2015 and 2022 – WCU has won two-straight over their canine rivals under head coach Alan Beck, sweeping last year’s meetings 13-4 in Asheville and 19-7 in Cullowhee. The Catamounts have won 31 of the 45 meetings in Cullowhee (31-12), halting a five-game home slide last May.

 

Tuesday’s meeting between the mountain rivals is the frontend of a nonconference home-and-home as the two will run it back in Asheville on March 29 at Greenwood Field.

 

Following Tuesday’s midweek matchup with Asheville, the Catamounts remain at home this weekend for a four-game nonconference set against Georgia State at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Friday’s series opener is scheduled for 4 p.m., with a Saturday doubleheader slated for a Noon first pitch. The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. Each game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online at CatamountSports.com.

 

For tickets to WCU’s home games, visit CatamountSports.com/BuyTickets.


2024 Catamount Baseball – Western Carolina vs. UNC Asheville


Projected Pitching Match-Up:


 Tuesday, Feb. 27 | 4:00 pm | Coverage: Watch ESPN (ESPN+)  | Live Stats


UNCA – Michael Groves (1 app., 0-0 – 2.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1 K, 0 BB)


WCU – Sr. RHP Dante Visconti (3 app., 0-0 – 4.1 IP, 10.38 ERA, 4 K, 2 BB

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