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  • Daniel Hooker

Catamounts Host ETSU to Open Southern Conference Play



Boasting the Southern Conference’s longest active win streak with six consecutive victories entering the weekend, Western Carolina opens 2024 league play by hosting mountain-rival East Tennessee State for three games at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Dubbed a “Blackout Weekend” following the rivalry series with the Bucs, the three-game set is now slated to open at an amended 1:30 p.m. on Friday, with the first pitch on Saturday remaining at 2 p.m. and a 1 p.m. start on Sunday.

 

Each game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online through a link at CatamountSports.com. For tickets to WCU's home games, visit CatamountSports.com/BuyTickets.

 

Be sure to keep track of any additional potential weather-related schedule changes through WCU’s social media outlets including Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports) and Twitter (@catamounts, @catamountbsb),

 

League play opens in earnest this weekend with all eight teams in action within conference play. ETSU has won 14 of its opening 20 nonconference games to sit third in the standings going into SoCon play with a 14-6 record and a .700-win percentage. The Citadel – which has only played two road games and left Charleston County just once – leads the conference at 14-5 (.737), and visits second-place Wofford (13-5, .722) this weekend.

 

Western Carolina (10-9) opened its current six-game win streak with a pair of neutral-field victories over Michigan State (9-5) and Western Michigan (16-7, 7 inn.) at Fluor Field before returning home to sweep the Ivy League’s preseason No. 3 pick, Harvard, last weekend in Cullowhee. Most recently, the Catamouts outslugged their rivals UNC Asheville for a 14-5 road win to complete the home-and-home seasonal series, winning Tuesday at Greenwood Field.

 

WCU swept the SoCon’s weekly awards this week as senior outfielder Nate Stocum collected Player of the Week accolades and senior RHP Jonathan Todd was dubbed the Pitcher of the Week. Stocum has homered in five of his last six games, tallying six of his SoCon-high tying 10 round-trippers during WCU’s current win streak. A combined 14 of Stocum’s 20 base hits have gone for extra bases, adding four doubles and a team-best 24 RBI, holding the fourth-best slugging percentage int eh SoCon at .794 – just behind teammate Drew Needham at .815 (3rd).

 

Hayden Friese (.382, 6 RBI) and Trent Turner (.371, 20 RBI) continue to pace the Catamounts in terms of average with Turner’s 33 base hits ranking second in the SoCon. The Waynesville product is riding an eight-game hitting streak that includes three multi-hit games. Kyle Riesselmann has collected five hits over his last three games, batting .385 during that stretch to raise his seasonal average to .310, while Zach Ketterman has a string of three-straight, two-hit efforts entering the weekend.

 

Senior James Hinson – one of the heroes of Tuesday’s road win at UNC Asheville – has shaken off a 7-for-32 (.219) stretch with four hits in his last seven at-bats including a 2-for-2 effort with a pair of home runs and five RBI against the Bulldogs.

 

As a team, 73 of the Catamounts 181 hits have gone for extra bases with 41 doubles, three triples, and 29 home runs – the second-most in the conference this year. WCU is averaging 7.94 runs on 9.53 hits per game. The Catamounts continue to pace the SoCon defensively with 17 double-plays turned this season.

 

ETSU is third in the conference in overall win percentage at 14-6 but comes to Cullowhee amidst a two-game slide. The Bucs dropped their series finale against Villanova last Sunday, 15-8, and after grabbing a 4-0 lead at Virginia Tech, surrendered 14 unanswered runs to the 19th-ranked Hokies in the midweek defeat in Blacksburg, Va.

 

The Bucs are batting .320 collectively as a team with 81 of the team’s 211 hits going for extra bases including 52 doubles, five triples, and 24 home runs. They are averaging 8.85 runs on 10.55 hits per game to date. On the mound, ETSU has a 6.68 collective ERA surrendering an average of 7.15 runs on just 8.15 hits per game with 184 combined strikeouts.

 

Picked fifth just behind WCU in the preseason SoCon coaches poll, five Buccaneers landed on the preseason all-conference team – one first-teamer and four on the second team. First baseman Cameron Sisneros (.406, 32 RBI) was a first-team All-SoCon selection with the left side of the infield – shortstop Ashton King (.190, 4 RBI) and third baseman Cody Miller (.403, 18 RBI) – joined by outfielder Tommy Barth (.296, 7 RBI) and designated hitter Nick Iannantone (.388, 17 RBI) rounding out the honored Bucs.

 

Sisneros currently leads the SoCon with his nine doubles and 32 runs driven. He along with Iannantone rank 1-2 in walks drawn with 23 and 21, respectively. On the mound, Andrew Ronne and Derek McCarley are among the Top 10 in the league with 23 strikeouts including 10 looking by Ronne, second in the SoCon.

 

WCU and ETSU have one common foe this year – Harvard. The Catamounts swept the Crimson in the three-game set in Cullowhee last weekend while the Buccaneers upended the Ivy Leaguers 14-4 in eight innings the Wednesday before. In the midweek, WCU ranked 131st in the active RPI with ETSU just behind at 144.

 

The two programs have met 115 times previously on the baseball diamond with Western Carolina holding a 70-45 lead in the all-time series including a 36-25 edge in games played in Cullowhee. The Buccaneers, though, have held the upper hand since 2017 by winning 13 of the last 16 head-to-head meetings. The Catamounts dropped 2-of-3  in Johnson City last season after being swept by the Buccaneers in Cullowhee in 2022 – the second-consecutive three-game sweep at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium as the Bucs won all three back in 2018.

 

Following the weekend series, WCU opens a five-game stretch against Bulldog monikers. The Catamounts bookend their next five games with a nonconference home-and-home with Gardner-Webb, meeting in Cullowhee on March 26 with the return trip on April 2. In between, WCU plays its first league road series in traveling to Charleston, S.C., to face The Citadel in a special Thursday through Saturday series on Easter weekend in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

 

Keep track of everything related to WCU Athletics and Catamount baseball including any game day schedule changes through our social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/CatamountSports), Twitter (@Catamounts, @CatamountBSB), and Instagram (wcu_catamounts, catamountbsb). 

 

2024 Catamount Baseball – Western Carolina (10-9) vs. ETSU (14-6) Game 1: Friday, March 22  |  1:30 p.m. (UPDATED)  |  Coverage: ESPN+ | LiveStatsETSU: Fr. RHP Jace Hyde (6 app., 4 GS – 2-0, 23.0 IP, 32K, 11 BB)WCU: Sr. RHP Gavin Mortenson (8 app., 2 GS – 0-1, 13.2 IP, 4.61 ERA, 16K, 9 BB)

 Game 2: Saturday, March 23  |  2 p.m.  |  Coverage: ESPN+ | LiveStatsETSU: Jr. RHP Andrew Ronne (5 app., 5 GS – 3-1, 20.2 IP, 6.97 ERA, 23K, 7 BB)WCU: Jr. RHP Spenser Hamblen (5 app., 5 GS – 2-2, 20.0 IP, 6.30 ERA, 15K, 12 BB)

Game 3: Sunday, March 24  |  1 p.m.  |  Coverage: ESPN+ | LiveStatsETSU: Fr. RHP Michael Harpster (5 app., 3 GS – 21.0 IP, 5.57 ERA, 17K, 7 BB)WCU: Soph. LHP Ryan White (8 app, 2 GS – 21.0 IP, 5.57 ERA, 14K, 8 BB)

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