The Catamount Department of Athletics added three more Southern Conference titles to its trophy case over the spring as the men’s and women’s track and field teams both found themselves at the top of the podium at the SoCon championships in April and the baseball squad went on a torrid 11-game winning streak to claim its first regular season championship since 2007.
The Bat Cats swept Wofford in the home series finale, later taking two of three games on the road at Appalachian State to enter the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Catamounts would go on to win its opening game, but stumbled in the next two games en route to an early tournament exit. Several upsets in other conference tournaments prevented WCU from getting an at-large invitation to the NCAA baseball tournament field of 64, said Coach Bobby Moranda.
“We were ranked No. 29 in the nation for the last two weeks of the regular season, but less than one-third of the No. 1 seeds in the country won their respective tournaments, and there just weren’t enough at-large spots to go around,” Moranda said. “I told the guys they still have a lot to be proud of. We ended the year nationally ranked in a lot of categories, including homeruns and doubles, and we were in the top 10 in the number of strike-outs thrown. We do have a lot of positives, including rattling off 16 straight Southern Conference wins, which has never been done here before.”
Winners of 22 of their last 27 games, the Cats wound up with a 39-20 overall record and 23-7 in the SoCon, the most conference victories in program history. WCU landed seven players on the post-season All-SoCon team, including the media’s Player of the Year, senior third baseman Tyler White, who was joined on the first team by junior shortstop Aaron Attaway, junior outfielder Julian Ridings and relief pitcher Preston Hatcher ’13. Ridings and White also were selected during the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Ridings in the 18th round by the Tampa Bay Rays and White in the 33rd round by the Houston Astros. The Catamounts also had second-team selections in junior catcher Adam Martin and sophomore starting pitcher Jeremy Null – a two-time National Player of the Week selection – with reliever Jonathan Waszak named to the all-freshman team.
“Our No. 1 goal for next year is to get to the regionals,” said Moranda, named SoCon Coach of the Year. “Our No. 1 goal this year was to win a championship, and we did that. The guys say they want to do everything it takes next year to take that next step and get to the regionals. We’ll have a lot of guys back, and we have 22 players in summer leagues all across the country, from Cape Cod to California. They’ll be working hard to get better over the summer and then hit it hard when they return in the fall.”
Earlier in the spring, the women’s track and field team followed up its February indoor SoCon championship with the conference’s outdoor title. Not to be outdone, the men’s squad also claimed a conference crown. The teams are guided by Coach Danny Williamson ’84 MAEd ’86, who was named conference Coach of the Year for the 31st time and pushed his total number of SoCon titles to 26, including both outdoor and indoor.
Several Catamounts also won individual awards. Senior Brandon Hairston ’13 was named Most Valuable Men’s Track Performer, while sophomore Alisha Bradshaw was named Most Outstanding Women’s Field Performer and Tayla Carter was named Women’s Freshman of the Year. Hairston and Carter were joined by junior Jocelyn Keen at the NCAA East Region Preliminaries in Greensboro.