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  • Daniel Hooker

Catamount Baseball Hosts Iona to Open 2024 Season

Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina baseball opens the 2024 season under second-year head coach Alan Beck this weekend, hosting the Iona Gaels for a three-game nonconference series Friday through Sunday at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The season-opener is slated for Friday at 4 p.m. with the series continuing Saturday at 2 p.m. before concluding Sunday at 1 p.m.


Both Friday and Sunday’s games are slated to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available for all three games online at


Western Carolina opens the season at home for the sixth straight season. The Catamounts return 21 letter winners including five starting position players and five pitchers that saw starts a season ago as the squad looks to build upon a 21-33 record a season ago that included an 8-12 mark in conference play.



WCU landed three players on the 2024 preseason All-SoCon team led by senior RHP Gavin Mortenson on the first team. Senior utility player James Hinson and junior outfielder Cole Jones earned second-team all-conference plaudits. Jones was also selected from a team vote and awarded by the coaching staff this year’s Leggett No. 7 Legacy and will wear the No. 7 jersey this spring. Adding to WCU’s preseason accolades, earlier this week returning second-year RHP Ryan White and transfer hurler Jackson Reid both appeared on the NCBWA’s 19th annual Stopper of the Year Watch List.


The Catamounts were picked fourth in the eight-team preseason Southern Conference poll as the middle third of the conference was within two points in the conference’s head coach voting.



Also among the returning Catamounts are two seniors who have been staples of the WCU lineup for the past four years. Infielder Zach Ketterman, who was chosen to wear the No. 7 a year ago, is expected to leave the hot corner at third to play second base this season. The Biglerville, Pa., product had a productive 2023 at the plate, collecting 27 extra-base hits including 17 doubles, a triple, and nine home runs to give him 21 in his Cullowhee career. Classmate outfielder Nate Stocum, who collected preseason All-SoCon honors ahead of the 2023 season, belted 13 home runs and 11 doubles with 45 RBI a season ago. He, too, enters his final season with 21 career round-trippers in the Purple & Gold.


WCU is expected to platoon again at various positions with Jack Spyke to catch and play first base, sharing backstop duties with Kyle Harbison, Cameron Murray, and a pair of freshmen in Bowen Tabola and Noah Quarless. At first base, James Hinson will compete with Spyke and Drew Needham, among others, to find playing time at the right corner.


With Ketterman moving to the middle infield and Pascanel Ferreras being drafted by the Houston Astros with the final pick of the 2023 MLB Draft, filling the left side of the infield will fall upon several newcomers. Preseason practices and scrimmage scenarios have helped the coaching staff narrow the contenders. Junior transfer Trent Turner, a local product from Waynesville, as well as true freshman Landon Mowery stood out among the preseason entering this weekend’s season opener.



Two preseason-honored pitchers White and Mortenson lead a staff that is looking to make strides in 2024. The weekend rotation returns just one arm from a season ago – two-way starter Kyle Riesselmann, who will also see time in the outfield. Redshirt junior transfer Cannon Pickell, who originally attended North Carolina out of high school and missed last year due to injury, and junior college transfer Spenser Hamblen are expected to see the three-weekend starts.


WCU’s bullpen returns a total of eight arms that saw time a year ago including upperclassmen Mortenson, Coby Ingle, Jonathan Todd, and Dylan Wheeler who each saw multiple starts a season ago. Senior Dante Visconti and Reid, a graduate transfer from Lenoir Rhyne, should also factor into the backend of the Catamount rotation this season.



The Iona Gaels, WCU’s opening weekend opponent, are out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Located in New Rochelle, N.Y., which saw eight inches of snow this week, the Gaels open a season-opening 15-game road swing in Cullowhee this weekend. Iona won’t play at home until March 16.


Sophomore infielder Anthony Zollo returns as Iona’s leading offensive performer a season ago, batting .301 with seven doubles and 23 RBI in 2023. His infield classmate Josiah Ragsdale legged out a MAAC-leading seven triples among his 13 extra-base hits last season, hitting .281 with a couple of homers and 22 RBI. Also back for Iona is graduate senior Nick Forney who was just below the .300 threshold at .292 with nine doubles, a triple, and two home runs.


Coming off a 13-38 season a year ago – a seven-win improvement over the 2022 campaign – Iona was picked ninth out of the 11-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in this year’s preseason head coaches poll. Three-time regular-season MAAC champion Fairfield, which won 34 games a season ago, collected five first-place votes to secure status as the preseason favorite – though a combined five teams earned at least one first-place nod.


Western Carolina has played seven of the 11 teams currently in the MAAC on the baseball diamond, boasting a 17-4 record. (Canisius, 0-3; Fairfield, 2-0; Iona, 3-0; Manhattan, 2-1; Marist, 1-0; Niagara, 6-0; Rider, 3-0).



This weekend marks just the second three-game series between the two programs on the baseball diamond – and the first since WCU swept three games in Cullowhee back in March 2012. WCU won the first three series meetings by scores of 8-4, 22-2, and 2-0 in completing the sweep.


Following this weekend’s three-game home series, the Catamounts play their next four games on the road beginning in the midweek at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C., on Wednesday. WCU then travels to Tallahassee, Fla., for a three-game set against ACC-foe Florida State – the first meeting with the Seminoles in 22 years. After the four-game road swing, all told the Catamounts play eight of their first 12 games at home.


Both single-game and season tickets for the 26-game 2024 home baseball schedule at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium are on sale now through the first-floor Athletics Ticket Office in the Ramsey Center, by phone at (828) 227-2401, or online at Season ticket prices start at just $51 for adult general admission or $26 for youth general admission. Additional seating options include field-level chair back seats and upper-reserved chair backs under cover beneath the press box. Keep track of everything related to WCU Athletics and Catamount baseball including any game day schedule changes through our social media outlets on Facebook (, Twitter (@Catamounts, @CatamountBSB), and Instagram (wcu_catamounts, catamountbsb).


2024 Catamount Baseball – Western Carolina vs. Iona

Projected Pitching Matchup:


Game 1 – Friday, Feb. 16 | 4:00 pm | Buy Tickets | Coverage: ESPN+ | Live Stats

IONA – Jr. RHP Andrelys Payamps (2023: at Monroe College – 11 app., 11 GS, 6-4, 4.32, 81K, 41 BB)

WCU – R-Jr. RHP Cannon Pickell (2023: DNP)


Game 2 – Saturday, Feb. 17 | 2:00 pm | Buy Tickets | Coverage: Live Stats

IONA – Jr. LHP Carl Kuentzel (2023: 13 app., 5 GS – 1-3, 6.14 ERA, 34K, 24 BB)

WCU – RHP Spenser Hamblen (2023: at FDTC – 16 GP, 16 GS – 12-1, 3.99 ERA, 46K, 25 BB)


Game 3 – Sunday, Feb. 18 | 1:00 pm | Buy Tickets | Coverage: ESPN+ | Live Stats

IONA – So. RHP Michael Lorenzetti (2023: 13 app., 4 GS – 1-3, 9.72 ERA, 28K, 34 BB)

WCU – Sr. LHP Kyle Riesselmann (2023: 14 app., 13 GS – 1-3, 8.15 ERA, 39K, 20 BB)


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