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Western Carolina Faces No. 5 Wofford Thursday at SoCon Tournament


Daniel Hooker

WCU Athletics


Fourth-seeded Western Carolina opens its quest for an 11th Southern Conference Tournament championship as the Catamounts face the No. 5 seed Wofford Terriers on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the first of two double-elimination tournament games scheduled for Fluor Field at the West End in the 2024 SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases.

 

Wofford used a four-run third inning and four insurance markers over its final three frames to bounce eighth-seeded The Citadel 8-3 in Wednesday’s first single-elimination game and punch its ticket into the two-loss portion of the event.

 

The winner of Thursday afternoon’s game earns a morning date with top-seeded UNCG (33-19, 15-6 SoCon) on Friday with a scheduled 9 a.m. first pitch in the winner’s bracket. A loss on Thursday relegates the loser to an elimination game on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m.

 

Each game of the 2024 SoCon Baseball Tournament will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with WCU’s games available with live streaming audio from the Catamount Sports Network, as well as a link to live stats available online at CatamountSports.com.

 

About Western Carolina:

Western Carolina (28-24) finished the regular season by winning five of its final six games, sweeping the Mercer Bears at home before taking 2-of-3 in the final SoCon series at VMI in Lexington, Va. WCU’s lone loss over its final six league games came on a walk-off home run against the Keydets in the final game of the season.

 

Posting a final regular-season conference record of 13-8, Western Carolina finished tied with ETSU for third place in the final SoCon standings, just ahead of its preseason No. 4 prediction. With the Buccaneers winning the head-to-head series over WCU on the league’s opening weekend in Cullowhee in late March, ETSU garnered the No. 3 seed while the Catamounts were pegged fourth, both earning a Wednesday bye into the double-elimination portion of the conference tournament.

 

The Catamounts finished the regular season with a SoCon-leading 89 home runs, the most for the program since hitting 100 back in the 1997 season. It’s also the sixth time in program history that WCU has belted 80+ homers as a team. The squad also ranked third in the conference with 115 doubles, the fifth-straight season that played a full schedule that WCU recorded 100 or more two-baggers.

 

Collectively, WCU has scored 410 runs on 527 base hits this season, averaging 7.9 runs on 10.1 runs per game this season. With a team ERA of 6.80, the Catamounts have surrendered 395 runs on 496 hits – or an average of 7.6 runs on 9.5 hits per game.

 

The Catamounts are expected to hand the ball to senior RHP Gavin Mortenson (4-5, 5.46 ERA) in Thursday afternoon’s opener. The Summerfield, N.C., product struck out a team-best 63 during the season including 36 in league play where he finished 3-3 overall. Preseason All-SoCon as a reliever, Mortenson will make his third start in the conference tournament with his first two coming in the 2021 and 2022 editions.

 

Western Carolina in the SoCon Tournament:

The Catamounts have won a league-best 10 baseball tournament titles all-time, two more than second-place The Citadel which was ousted on Wednesday. Entering Thursday’s games, Western Carolina boasts a league-best 80 victories in the postseason classic, making the program’s 39th appearance in the tournament which plays out in Greenville, S.C., for the eighth time since 2016. The Catamounts are 15-17 (.469) in games played at Fluor Field in the postseason tournament – though the 2024 squad is 2-1 at the replica Fenway Park, downing Big Ten foe Michigan State 9-5 and run-ruling Western Michigan 18-6 back in early March in the First Pitch Invitational.

 

Catamounts on the 2024 All-SoCon Team:

Earlier in the week, Western Carolina landed six players on the postseason All-Southern Conference teams as voted on by the league’s head coaches and the SoCon Sports Media Association (SCSMA).

 

Senior outfielder Nate Stocum earned first-team honors on both postseason squads with classmate RHP Jonathan Todd garnering first-team plaudits from the coaches and second-team from the media. Senior infielder Zach Ketterman was a second-team selection on both the coaches and media teams at second base, joined on the coaches' second team by RHP Dante Visconti and RHP Dusty Revis on the media's second-team tabulation. Rounding out WCU's selections was freshman right-hander Davis Budd who landed on the coaches' SoCon All-Freshman team.

 

About the Wofford Terriers:

Wofford enters Thursday’s tournament game at 36-17 (12-8 SoCon) after taking two of three at Samford on the final weekend of the regular season. With Wednesday’s win, the Terriers have won three straight with wins in four of their last five – and seven of the final nine games.

 

Batting a SoCon-best .342, the Terriers rank second in the nation in runs scored with a school-record 547, second only to Austin Peay who entered the week with a NCAA-best 605 runs scored. The team is averaging 10.3 runs on 11.8 hits per game. Aggressive on the base paths, Wofford does it with team speed as the squad entered the week leading the NCAA with 30 triples while also ranking seventh nationally now with 137 stolen bases.

 

Wofford’s top pitcher Zac Cowan (8-2, 3.43 ERA) earned the victory on Wednesday, scattering five hits with just one run allowed over 6.2 innings. The Terriers are expected to start freshman RHP Camden Wicker (2-3, 4.40 ERA) who tossed six innings in a loss to WCU in the regular season. Collectively as a staff, the Terriers boast the league’s second-best team ERA at 5.64 with a SoCon-leading 436 strikeouts.

 

Western Carolina vs. Wofford – All-Time Series:

Western Carolina won the regular-season series over the Terriers this season in Spartanburg, stretching its all-time series lead to 78-29-1 over the 108 all-time meetings. After dropping the series opener in seven innings, 13-2, back on April 26, the Catamounts claimed the next two games 7-2 and 8-5, homering a combined seven times over the final two games of the series with five coming in Sunday’s finale.

 

The Catamounts and Terriers have met in the SoCon Tournament five times with WCU carrying a 5-0 mark over Wofford in the champion-crowning event. The two teams last met in the abbreviated four-team tournament in 2021 with the fourth-seeded Catamounts upending top-seed Wofford twice to eliminate the Terriers. WCU also jumpstarted its 2016 tournament championship run with a come-from-behind 10-9 win over then-seventh-seeded Wofford in Greenville, S.C.

 

 

Priced at $15 per day, tickets for the 2024 SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases are available in advance through the Greenville Drive's website and at the Drive ticket office at the entrances of Fluor Field. A variety of paid parking lots are available around the stadium area with FREE parking at the County Square, a 10-minute walk from the stadium. For the convenience of fans, a complimentary shuttle service runs from County Square to the Field Street Gate on game days. The Catamount Club will host a special ‘Catamount Central’ gathering at Mac's Speed Shop (930 S. Main Street; Greenville, S.C., 29601) ahead of each game WCU plays in the SoCon tournament. The pregame social is scheduled for two hours before the scheduled first pitch of each game, beginning at 1 p.m., on Thursday before the WCU's first tournament game.

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