Here are a few notes and rumors coming from Catamount Athletics:
Baseball• The Western Carolina Men’s Baseball team is having another outstanding season with a record of 23-12. That includes a record of 8-4 in the SoCon. The Cats are on pace to finish way ahead of last year’s final record 33-27. If they can keep up their current winning percentage then the Cats should finish the regular season with around 36 wins and 19 losses. The 36 wins would be Coach Todd Raleigh’s second best season at Western and the best the school has had since 2003 when Raleigh led the Cats to 43 wins and the NCAA Regional.
• Senior transfers John Ingram and Kenny Scott have been named Mid-season All-Americans by PGCrossChecker.com. First Baseman/Outfielder John Ingram, a Clemson-transfer, is batting .360 with 41 RBI, 39 runs scored and 49 hits. Smith, an infielder from UNC-Wilmington, is hitting .397 with 11 home runs, a .786 slugging percentage, 50 hits, 12 doubles, 36 runs scored, and a .463 on-base percentage.
• Western is currently projected to be a #3 at-large seed in the Chapel Hill regional by SEbaseball.com
• Imagine how good Western would be if junior Preseason All-American Steven Strausbaugh was performing to his usual standards? Strausbaugh hit 17 home runs, 64 RBI, 61 runs, and had a .675 slugging percentage last year, but this year Strausbaugh has hit only .248 with 2 home runs, 24 RBI, 24 runs, and has only a .352 slugging percentage. It’s hard to figure out such a drop in production. Strausbaugh has produced from day one at Western and one has to wonder if he is just currently suffering from some type of injury or if he has really dropped off this much. I would bank on the injury over the drop off.
Men’s Basketball• Coach Larry Hunter continued his solid recruiting while at Western as he signed four recruits. Each recruit is listed as two-stars by Scout.com and the class includes Blake Gallagher, Richie Gordon, Camden Miller, and Mike Porrini.
• Porrini and Miller continue Hunter’s Ohio pipeline as he signed Nick Aldridge and Brigham Waginger from Ohio last year. Porrini is a 6’2″ 180-pound combo guard, while Miller is 6’8″ 195-pound combo forward.
• Gallagher and Gordon will add a lot of depth and size inside. An area that Western was sorely lacking in last year. Gallagher is a 6’8″ 245-pound post player from Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia. Gallagher averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game in high school and should be a beast down low for the Catamounts. Gordon is a 6’7½” 230-pound post player from Lakeside High School in Atlanta. Gordon averaged 12.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks per game as a senior. Gordon should provide the defensive presence down low that was non-existent last year in Cullowhee.
• With WCU losing only Kyle Greathouse, the Catamounts should be much better next year. The team will feature Gallagher, Gordon, Aldridge, and Arnold Gore on the inside, while Miller, Negus McKenna, and Jake Robinson fill it up from long-distance on the outside. In the backcourt, the Cats will have lots of depth with Porrini, Waginger, Brandon Giles, Antonio Russell, and Eric Wilson. Western should be able to hang with teams much better next year due to the increased depth as the Catamounts were down to only 10 players at the end of last year.
Football• Coach Kent Briggs will bring in a recruiting class of 26 next year. The class features kids from North Carolina, Georgia, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina.
• It’s good that Briggs brought in 26 players because 13 underclassmen are missing from spring practices. Among the players are Brandon Breeden, William Sullivan, Chris Jefferson, Travis Hill, and Brandon Drumgoole. Among the reasons that Briggs gave the Asheville Citizen Times for the departures are “not in school, not on the team, personal situation, will transfer, decided not to play.” Unfortunately, next year could be shaping up to be another long football season.
• Top 3 Recruits to Watch: Nick Williams, Zack Jaynes, and Quan Warley
• Williams is a 6’4″ 300-pound offensive lineman from Southern Nash High School in Bailey, North Carolina. Williams played in the Shrine Bowl and will immediately be one of Western’s biggest offensive linemen. Outlook: Williams should start for Western from day one and could be the best lineman the school has by the end of the season.
• Jaynes is a local recruit from Canton, North Carolina. The 6’0″ 190-pound Jaynes played quarterback at Pisgah High School. Jaynes was a two-time All-State selection and threw for 3,198 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. Jaynes also rushed for 1,301 yards and 20 touchdowns in his high school career. Outlook: Jaynes is very mobile and should be in competition for the starting quarterback job from day one. This year’s new offensive system is proving to be complex to pick up for most players on the team so Jaynes may have to wait for his turn in the sun.
• Warley is a 5’11” 190-pound running back from Thomasville High School in Thomasville, North Carolina. Warley is a two-time North Carolina Player of the Year, only the third person to ever accomplish the feat (Chris Leak of Florida, and Nick Maddox of Florida State). Warley scored 82 touchdowns in his final two seasons of high school. Outlook: Mike Malone and Willie Harper are solid backs in their own right so Warley might not make an immediate impact off the bat, but watch out in year two.
Men’s Golf• Sophomore transfer Andres Cuenca from Spain won his first career event at the Wofford Invitational on April 3rd. Cuenca has carried the golf team this spring, while 2006 Southern Conference golfer of the year junior Matt Cook has struggled with his shot.
• Cook won three tournaments in the fall portion of this year’s schedule but has yet to win one in the spring. Cook’s highest finish this spring was 15th until the team’s last tournament, the Wofford Invitational, where Cook finished tied for 7th. Cook has started off strong in many of the tournaments only to fade over the final rounds. Whether Cook is not focusing mentally or just injured, he needs to step it up to have any shot at adequately defending his SoCon championship.
Track & Field• Sophomore Manteo Mitchell set a school record in the 400-meter dash at the WCU Invitational on March 31st. Mitchell’s time of 46.23 broke the 23-year-old school record set by Earl Bates (46.25) in 1984 at the Southern Conference Championship.
Soccer• The Soccer team will lose four seniors from this year’s team: Alesha Row, Keevy Harris, Meghan Reilly, and Tammy Jones. There isn’t much need to worry, though, as head coach Tammy DeCesare will bring in a class of 12 recruits next year. The group includes players from North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Softball• After winning the SoCon Regular Season Championship last year and finishing with a record of 41-20, the softball team has digressed a lot this season. The loss of head coach Megan Smith as well as the transfers of All-SoCon performers Allison McCubbins and Jenny Jackson has left the team in upheaval. The team has struggled to a 20-26 record so far on the year.
• More bad news could be on the way as sources close to the team say that new head coach Christine Hornak has lost the confidence of the players and many of the 16 players could follow McCubbins and Jackson in transferring or quitting at the end of season.
Tennis• The Western Carolina women’s tennis team is only 5-13 on the year but there is much hope in the program as the five wins represent the most since the 2003-2004 season. Overall, the total is tied for the second best single-season total with both the 2003-04 and the 2000-01 seasons. The best season total is a tie with 6 wins in both the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.