Western Carolina (7-3, 0-0) vs. UNCG (7-5, 0-0)
UNCG Baseball Stadium • Greensboro, N.C.
March 11-13, 2011 • Game 13-15 • 6 p.m., 1 p.m., 1 p.m.
• Having won three of its last four games, UNCG will try to ride its current success as it starts Southern Conference play this weekend by hosting Western Carolina for a three-game series. The Spartans and Catamounts will start the series on Friday at 6 p.m. at the UNCG Baseball Stadium before 1 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday to wrap up the series.
• On Tuesday, UNCG hosted St. John's for a midweek contest and held on for a 9-7 win against the Red Storm. UNCG ran out to a 9-2 lead in the game, but had to hold on late as St. John's scored five runs in the top of the ninth. Drew Gehringer went 3-3 at the plate to lead UNCG and added three RBI and three runs scored.
• UNCG leads the all-time series against the Catamounts, 25-20, dating back to 1992. Last season, the Spartans traveled to Cullowhee, N.C. and took the series, 2-1. In the Friday night game, UNCG took a 10-5 lead, but the Catamounts rallied for six unanswered runs, including two in the eighth and one in the ninth, to win game one, 11-10. In the second game, Warren Slack pitched his first complete game as UNCG won 5-3 and then won in dominating fashion on Sunday, 14-2, to claim the series.
• After finishing fourth in the nation last season by being hit by a pitch 26 times, Chris Barker has picked where he left off this season. Through 12 games this season, Barker has already been hit by a pitch on six occasions. He only ranks behind Alex Lee from Wofford and Neal Pritchard from Elon in the conference in hit by pitches, after the two have been hit seven times already.
• Western Carolina comes into the game with a 7-3 record to start the season. The Catamounts began their season with a series sweep over Morehead State and followed by taking a series over Manhattan the following weekend. Western Carolina had its midweek game rained out against Clemson this week.
• Last weekend, UNCG hosted Albany for a three-game series at the UNCG Baseball Stadium. UNCG took game one on Friday, 6-5, as pitcher Warren Slack moved to 2-0 on the season. On Saturday, the two teams played a doubleheader due to the threat on Sunday. UNCG took game one, 9-8, on a walk-off three-run double by John Hein to clinch the series. In the second game, UNCG fell behind 8-3 and saw its rally fall short as the Spartans fell in the series finale, 8-6. In the doubleheader, junior Bobby Martin went 7-9 with an RBI and three runs scored.
• On Jan. 19, the UNCG baseball team reached a milestone in the 21st season of the program. The 10-9 walk-off win on Saturday gave head coach Mike Gaski his 600th career win. The win was also the 600th in program history as Gaski has been the lone skipper for the Spartans over the past 21 seasons.
• Following the 2010 season, junior Blake Hassebrock was drafted in the 8th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Oakland Athletics. It marked the second-straight season that UNCG has had a player drafted in the 8th round by the Athletics as Rob Gilliam was selected in that slot in 2009. Hassebrock signed with the Athletics a few weeks after being drafted and ended his season with the Vancouver Canadians. UNCG has now had at least one pitcher drafted in 12 of the past 14 seasons.
• Despite losing players to graduation and to the draft, UNCG will return seven of its top 10 hitters from a season ago. Kris Richards, who led the Spartans last season with a .307 average, returns this season, but will move over from third base to shortstop this season. UNCG also returns junior Lloyd Enzor who led the team last season with 40 RBI from his first base position. Chris Barker, who had a .448 on-base percentage, also returns to the outfield this fall.
• The Spartans also return two of their three weekend starters this season in Warren Slack and Colby Hyatt. Hyatt finished in fifth in the Southern Conference last season with a 4.29 ERA to go along with his 7-4 record, while Slack was 10th in the SoCon with his 4.75 ERA. Slack was also ninth in the league last year with 75 strikeouts.
• UNCG will welcome 18 newcomers to the team this season as it looks to plug some holes left by exiting players. An area that will receive the most help will be the pitching staff. After losing Hassebrock to the draft and Alex Shelton to graduation, UNCG needed to bolster pitching staff that featured just nine arms last season. The Spartans have brought in nine new arms this season, led by Jarett Miller who will join the weekend rotation. Four of those nine new pitchers are left handed-pitchers, which was necessary after UNCG lost its only left-handed pitcher from a season ago in Shelton.
• UNCG has made admission free for all home games this season at the UNCG Baseball Stadium. Fans are encouraged to come out and support the Spartans all season long on campus.