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  • Daniel Hooker

Catamounts Host Harvard for Trio of Weekend Games




Idle in the midweek, Western Carolina baseball returns to action looking to build upon a two-game win streak from tournament play at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C., last weekend as the Catamounts host first-time opponent Harvard for three nonconference games at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.

 

The weekend schedule features games on Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and first pitch at 11:00 am (note the special start time). Each game is slated to be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online at CatamountSports.com. Game dates and times are subject to change – check CatamountSports.com and social media (@catamounts, @catamountbsb) for any weather-related schedule alterations.

 

Western Carolina (6-9) halted a five-game slide last weekend by taking 2-of-3 at Michigan State’s First Pitch Invitational at Fluor Field. The Catamounts won back-to-back games over foes from the Mitten State, upending tournament host Michigan State 9-5 to snap the skid before powering past Western Michigan 18-6 in seven innings in its event finale.

 

The Catamounts hit a smoldering .355 collectively as a team in Greenville, rapping out 38 base hits including 13 for extra bases with seven doubles and six home runs. WCU scored a combined 29 runs, averaging 9.7 runs per game in posting the 2-1 record in the weather-altered tournament. Among the Catamount hitters, six batted over .400 with Hayden Friese finishing 4-for-5 in two games for a team-best .800 average with a .833 on-base percentage. Drew Needham also had a solid weekend, homering twice among his three base hits for a .600 average.

 

Starting all three games, seniors Zach Ketterman and Nate Stocum and junior transfer Trent Turner each collected a team-best six hits apiece in the 2-1 appearance in the Upstate. The trio combined for seven extra-base hits, each homering – Stocum twice to go along with a double, while Turner tallied a pair of two-baggers.

 

On the mound, the Catamount pitching staff turned the corner by posting a collective ERA of 5.62, limiting the three opponents to a combined 16 runs or 5.3 runs per game. Gavin Mortenson and Ryan White both struck out four in their respective starts, while Jonathan Todd fanned four in making two relief appearances with the strikeout representing four of the five outs he recorded over an inning and two-thirds.

 

Entering the week, Turner continues to lead the Southern Conference with a league-best 26 base hits including six doubles to rank him tied for third among the league leaders. The Waynesville, N.C., product is also 10th with a team-high 17 RBI. Stocum is tied for second in the league with six home runs heading into the home series with the Crimson. Friese, who has made seven starts in the outfield among the 11 games in which he’s played, ranks third in the SoCon in on-base percentage at .594.

 

As a team, WCU enters the week leading the SoCon having turned 13 double plays.

 

Second-year head coach Alan Beck is expected to start the combination of senior RHP Gavin Mortensen (0-1, 5.19 ERA), junior transfer RHP Spenser Hamblen (2-2, 4.76 ERA), and sophomore LHP Ryan White (1-1, 4.70 ERA) on the mound this weekend – although the exact order has not yet been announced based on potential weather-related schedule issues.

 

Harvard (2-8) concludes a spring break road swing in Cullowhee this weekend with WCU representing the third Southern Conference opponent on a Crimson schedule that features the opening 17 games on the road. The Ivy Leaguers dropped 2-of-3 at The Citadel to open March, winning the series opener 4-3 in 10 innings before dropping a two-run (10-8) and a three-run (6-3) decision to the Bulldogs. Most recently, Harvard fell in the midweek at ETSU, downed by the Buccaneers 14-4 in eight innings on Wednesday evening in Johnson City, Tenn.

 

One of Harvard’s two wins this season came against a Power Five opponent as the Crimson defeated Penn State 6-5 last Sunday (March 10) marking the third straight year the squad scored a victory over a P-5 program.

 

Harvard is led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Week in outfielder Matt Giberti (.389, 4 doubles) who collected three doubles among his five hits with four runs and a trio of stolen bases last weekend at Penn State. A first-team All-Ivy League selection as a utility player last season, junior George Cooper returns as one of the offensive leaders after batting .333 with 13 doubles last season. Ben Rounds leads the Crimson with a .389 batting average including three doubles. Senior infielder Jake Berger is the team captain after garnering an all-tournament team nod a season ago. Among the projected weekend Crimson starters are first-team All-Ivy League selection and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Callan Fang (0-2, 7.71 ERA). Right-hander Sean Matson (0-0, 2.30 ERA) is expected to get the ball in the series opener against WCU.

 

Harvard was selected to finish third in the 2024 Ivy League Baseball Preseason Media Poll. Penn collected 16 first-place votes to earn the preseason top pick with Columbia tagged second.

 

Western Carolina and Harvard meet for the first time on the baseball diamond. The Catamounts have faced four of the current eight members of the Ivy League, carrying a 7-2 record against the league into the weekend. WCU swept three-game series over Princeton (2006) and Columbia (2007), and split two 2005 meetings with Brown (1-1) with a loss in 1973 to Yale.

 

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 vs. Harvard

 Friday, March 15  |  4 pm  |  Coverage: ESPN+ | LiveStats

Harvard: RHP Sean Matson (3 app., 3 GS; 0-0, 15.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 19K, 12 BB)

WCU: TBA

 

Saturday, March 15  |  2 pm  |  Coverage: ESPN+ | LiveStats

Harvard: RHP Callan Fang (3 app., 3 GS; 0-2, 16.1 IP, 7.71 ERA, 19K, 3BB)

WCU: TBA

Sunday, March 15  |  11 am  |  Coverage: ESPN+ | LiveStats

Harvard: TBA

WCU: TBA

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