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WCU Baseball Hosts Mercer in Final Home SoCon Series

Daniel Hooker

Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations

Western Carolina baseball continues its final five-game homestand of the regular season, hosting the Mercer Bears in a crucial Southern Conference series at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium beginning Friday evening. The first pitch of WCU’s penultimate league series is scheduled for 5 p.m. for the opener with Saturday’s game set for 2 p.m. and Sunday’s finale at 1 p.m.


All three games of this weekend’s SoCon series will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live stats available online at Presented by Ingles, Friday’s series opener will be broadcast locally on TheCW 62 (Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson-Asheville) and simulcast on E+.


Western Carolina welcomes home its baseball alumni this weekend at all three games. On Sunday, the Catamounts will honor the senior members of their squad with both an on-field commencement exercise with University Chancellor Kelli R. Brown and with the annual Senior Day ceremonies.


Fans should anticipate heavy traffic on campus as games on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon coincide with WCU's commencement exercises. Those attending this weekend’s games are reminded to utilize the baseball parking deck, as well as the South Baseball Lot located beyond the outfield fence.


About Western Carolina:

The Catamounts look to snap a five-game seasonal slide with WCU having dropped eight of its last 10 games overall – though four came against nationally-ranked opposition including then No. 3 Tennessee – this week’s No. 1 team in the country – and then 13th-ranked Wake Forest last weekend in a three-game set. WCU took 2-of-3 in its most recent league series, claiming the series over Wofford in Spartanburg.


Senior Zach Ketterman is batting .346 to lead four Catamount regulars batting over the .300 threshold – with a fifth in Trent Turner just below at .298. WCU has three players with double-digit home runs with Nate Stocum pacing the squad with 17 – tied for second in the SoCon – with Ketterman having hit a dozen and Drew Needham joining the club with 11 in just 92 total at-bats, boasting a .717 slugging percentage. Five Catamounts have double-digit doubles with Stocum in the conference’s Top 10 with a team-best 14.


Mason Holton enters the weekend with WCU’s longest active reached base safely streak at eight games after Stocum’s 19-game hit streak was snapped last Sunday at Wake Forest and Ketterman’s 19 straight games of reaching safely ended against Gardner-Webb.


As a team, WCU ranks third in the conference in both doubles (103) and home runs (71) and is batting .282 collectively as a team.


About the Mercer Bears:

Including a midweek victory over Peach State rival Kennesaw State, Mercer has won six of its last 11 games overall including taking 2-of-3 from instate rival Georgia Southern. The Bears are just 3-5 in their last three league series, dropping 2-of-3 at home against VMI and at Samford most recently with the win over the Bulldogs coming in a slugfest, 20-15.


The Bears are batting .282 collectively as a squad with 440 hits including 87 doubles, five triples, and 73 home runs to rank second in the SoCon. Two Mercer regulars – Parker Lester (.316) and Noah Best (.301) are batting above the .300 threshold with four batting just below the same benchmark. Three Bears have slugged double-digit home runs paced by Jackson Cherry (.296, 17 HRs) with Ty Dalley (.299, 14 HRs) and Lester (11). Cherry ranks fourth in the SoCon with a .685 slugging percentage while Dalley ranks sixth in the league with a team-best 56 RBI.


Mercer was picked second in the preseason SoCon Coaches poll, just behind favorite Samford and two slots ahead of WCU (4th). The Bears had four preseason All-SoCon selections including three on the first team – starting pitcher Colton Cosper, outfielder Ty Dalley, and DH Jackson Cherry. Relief pitcher Wes Franklin was a second-team selection before the start of the season.


Projected Starting Pitching Match-ups:


Friday, May 10

MER: Colton Cosper – (13 app., 12 GS – 5-2, 4.21 ERA, 72.2 IP, 49 K, 12 BB)

WCU: Sr. #11 RHP Gavin Mortenson – (17 app., 10 GS – 2-5, 6.08 ERA, 50.1 IP, 50 K, 29 BB)


Saturday, May 11

MER: Jess Ackerman – (18 app., 7 GS – 5-3, 5.77 ERA, 53.0 IP, 57 K, 18 BB)

WCU: Sr. #22 RHP Dante Visconti – (18 app., 6 GS – 3-1, 6.21 ERA, 42.0 IP, 36 K, 21 BB)


Sunday, May 12


WCU: Fr. Davis Budd – (14 app., 7 GS – 2-2, 8.00 ERA, 36.0 IP, 34 K, 19 BB)


Western Carolina vs. Mercer – The Series:

Meeting for the 31st time on the diamond on Friday, the series between WCU and Mercer is even at 15 wins and 15 losses apiece. The Catamounts have dropped eight of the 13 series meetings played in Cullowhee (5-8) while holding an 8-4 record in Macon. WCU has won two straight in the series – and five of the last six overall including sweeping the Bears in the most recent meeting in Cullowhee.


In the most recent series meeting, WCU rallied from a seven-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning with an eight-run frame to secure the series victory in Macon. Cole Jones belted a three-run home run before the Catamounts went back-to-back with Pascanel Ferreras hitting a grand slam and James Hinson belting his second homer of the day that propelled WCU to the lead. Gavin Mortenson then worked a 1-2-3 ninth with a trio of ground ball outs to cap the comeback.


Weekend Implications in the Southern Conference:

WCU (8-7, .533) enters the weekend just percentage points out of fourth place and the final single-elimination game bye, currently sitting in fifth in the SoCon standings. The Catamounts close the league slate with the sixth-place Bears and the seventh-place VMI Keydets (May 16-18). Those three teams each trail the final first-round bye slot at fourth-place currently occupied by Wofford (8-6, .571). The Terriers finish the SoCon slate against third-place ETSU (12-6) and visit league-leading Samford (12-3).


Of note, both Wofford and Mercer have one fewer game as they played just two of the three scheduled in their head-to-head series due to weather.


On Deck for Western Carolina:

Following this weekend’s three-game SoCon series, the Catamounts play their final midweek nonconference game by hosting the Presbyterian Blue Hose in the backend of a nonconference home-and-home on Tuesday, May 14. WCU won the first meeting between the two 9-5 in Clinton, S.C., back on April 9. Tuesday’s first pitch in WCU’s final home game of the season is scheduled for 5 p.m. WCU wraps up the regular season at VMI next Thursday through Saturday, May 16-18).

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