First time in school history.
It has been a common theme for Appalachian State baseball this season. There have been so many instances, it is hard to cover them all. However, Appalachian added another school first to its resume this weekend. Appalachian comes into the final week of the regular season ranked 24th by Baseball America, which only ranks twenty five teams compared to other news outlets who rank thirty teams. The honor comes on the heels of winning its fourth series in a row, and second in a row on the road in conference play. Last weekend’s opponent, Samford, had a chance to win the conference going into the series, but Appalachian squashed those hopes with a 9-7 win on Sunday.
Gardner-Webb will be a different opponent for Appalachian on Tuesday. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are only 6-10 on the road this season, with wins over Wofford, North Carolina, Liberty, Charleston Southern, UAB and Prebyterian. The Bulldogs are 0-2 this season when playing a road game following a road win. Gardner-Webb will also be without the services of starting pitcher Andrew Barnett, who got the start against Appalachian earlier this season. Barnett did not get the win, but kept Appalachian guessing and struck out eight batter in 6.1 innings. Barnett was the starter for Gardner-Webb on Friday evening’s loss to Presbyterian. It’s a possibility that we see Matt Fraudin (1-5, 3.84) who has ten starts on the season. It also possible we see Brock Wilson (4-2, 3.37) who has started six games this year. Fraudin started on Saturday but only threw 44 pitches before being lifted. Wilson has only surrendered one home run in 34.2 innings of work and opponents bat .211 against him.
ASU Fr. LHP Jeffrey Springs (1-0, 4.82 ERA) vs. GWU Jr. RHP Brock Wilson (4-2, 3.37 ERA)
In somewhat of a surprising move, Chris Pollard handed the ball to freshman southpaw Jeffrey Springs against Gardner-Webb. It was Springs’ ninth apperance of the season and his first start since facing South Carolina on the road – 61 days ago. It was announced before the game that Springs would only throw about 50 pitches and his rust was apparent early on. Springs hit two batters, walked two and allowed a run and three hits in his three innings of work. Following Springs, seven other Mountaineer pitchers were needed to finish the game, including solid performances from Jordan Jessup (2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 4 K), Jamie Nunn (0.2 IP, 2 K) and Nathan Hyatt ( 1 IP, K, S), who tied a school record with his 13th save of the season.
Only five Mountaineers recorded hits on the evening with Tyler Zupcic leading the charge with three hits. Zupcic scored twice and raised his season average to .344. Brandon Burris started in right field as Tyler Tewell was behind the plate giving Jeremy Dowdy a much needed rest. Burris drove in two runs on one hit, and made a fantastic diving catch in right center field to keep a run off the board for Gardner Webb. Daniel Kassouf added a sacrifice fly and Preston Troutman also drove in a run and was walked once.
Appalachian has the chance to reach the forty win mark this weekend, (Thurs-Sat) with a series against Western Carolina. Appalachian’s magic number is two to win the conference title. Any combination of two Mountaineer wins of Charleston losses secures the championship and the first overall seed in the conference tournament. The difference between the first and second seed is massive. First seed would potentially play at 5pm on the first day of the tournament compared to 10am for the second seed, depending on where Furman finishes. Furman is the host institution and game times may be adjusted to allow the Paladins to play the 5pm game as long as it stays in the winners bracket.