Appalachian State Baseball (40-16) vs #23 Oklahoma (38-23) NCAA Tournament, Charlottesville, VA.
All of the victories have been compiled, and paired against the losses, both in and out of conference, and for Appalachian and Oklahoma, it has matriculated into a NCAA Regional match up in Charlottesville, Va, home of the Virginia Cavaliers. Both the Mountaineers and Sooners come to Charlottesville as at-large qualifiers. Appalachian finished tied for first during the regular season in the seventh ranked RPI Southern Conference. Oklahoma finished fourth in the Big XII Conference, which was ranked fourth in the RPI. Oklahoma lost in the Big XII tournament championship game to Missouri. The Sooners received the second seed compared to Appalachian who received a three seed. The difference in seeding basically determines a final at bat for the opening games of the regional.
Oddly enough, for schools located 1,010 miles apart, both schools share a common opponent. Samford finished its conference schedule against Appalachian at home and then went on the road to Oklahoma for its final regular season series. Both teams were able to defeat Samford in two out of three games. Appalachian played its series with Samford in Birmingham, and eventually lost to Samford in the Southern Conference tournament.
Oklahoma is a team that relies heavily on its starting pitching to carry them. Jordan John (8-6, 2.30) is a guy who has pitched four complete games in only ten starts. John has also made fourteen relief appearances. He has pitched more innings than any other Sooner pitcher with 109.2, and has struck out 97 batters. Opponents are only batting .235 against John this season. Dillon Overton (5-3, 3.24) has accumulated fifteen starts and five relief appearances. Overton has logged 108.1 innings, the second most innings pitched on the staff. Overton leads the Sooners with 109 strikeouts, but also has given up a team high 114 hits, 49 runs, 16 doubles, three triples and six home runs. Jonathan Gray is the only true starter on the team, as all of his appearances (16) have been starts. Gray is 8-4 with a 3.47 ERA. Another strikeout pitcher, Gray averages a punch out an inning, but also gives up a hit an inning as well. Gray has walked more batters than any other Sooner in his 90.2 innings of work.
Besides the starters John and Overton, who have combined for nineteen relief appearances, Oklahoma is a mixed bag in the bullpen. John actually is tied for the team lead with four saves. Steven Okert leads the team in relief appearances (22) and is also tied with John with four saves. Okert is fourth on the team in innings pitched and holds an 8-7 record with a 2.92 ERA. As a team, Oklahoma has thirteen saves among six different pitchers. There is high chance Appalachian could see two starter quality pitchers in the same game. Sometimes in regional play, teams like Oklahoma will try to get by with their 2nd or 3rd starter, while Appalachian’s starting pitcher on Friday will undoubtedly be Ryan Arrowood.
Oklahoma is not a team that scores a ton of runs, but thanks to those pitchers, they don’t need to. Max White is by far, Oklahoma’s best player. The center fielder leads the team in mulitple categories including batting average (.356), hits (80), doubles (17), and RBI (54). Catcher Lockwood Hunter reminds me of Georgia Southern’s Chase Griffin. A guy with power (11 HR), but does not bat for a high average (.250). Similar to Griffin, Hunter has struckout 66 times in 184 at bats. Second Baseman Jack Mayfield is a speed demon with ten stolen bases and fourteen of his 61 hits being doubles. Mayfield is third on the team with 88 total bases and leads the team with 42 runs.
Most are aware what Appalachian has to offer, but for our new readers, I will give you some insight. Appalachian keeps a very tight lineup as far as the hitters are concerned. Leading off, you will see Hector Crespo (.317, 42 BB, 30 SB). Following Crespo is center fielder Tyler Zupcic (.338, 17 2B, 12 SB, 14 HBP) who is swinging a very hot bat right now and leads the team with four triples. Batting third is the shortstop Will Callaway, (.330, 4 HR, 52 RBI, 23 SB) who has been tailing off of late. Callaway was batting above .400 at one point of the season, but has gotten better in the field as the season has progressed. The designated hitter is Daniel Kassouf (.345, 17 HR, 60 RBI) who charged hard at the SoCon triple crown before enduring a late season slump. Kassouf set a single season school record for home runs. Batting fifth is the right fielder, Tyler Tewell (.375, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 17 2B) who is the hardest Mountaineer to strike out. Tewell only has 18 K’s in 208 plate appearances. Catcher Jeremy Dowdy (.271, 3 HR, 37 RBI) bats sixth and can run well for a catcher with ten stolen bases. Dowdy has also thrown out 12 of 30 runners trying to steal on him. Batting seventh is the first baseman Trey Holmes (.249, 6 HR, 37 RBI), who has some power, but is mostly known a great fielding first baseman. Trey has committed five errors in 545 chances for .991 fielding percentage. Preston Troutman (.280, 24 RBI) has extra base hits on eleven of his forty hits. Troutman rested an injured hamstring in the middle of the season and split some time with Brandon Burris, who is most likely the first pinch hitter off the bench. Batting ninth is third baseman Noah Holmes (.229, 9 2B), who like his brother, is another terrific fielder on the left side of the infield. Holmes leads the team with seven sac bunts. The final three hitters in the Mountaineer lineup are left handed.
Much like the batting order, Appalachian has started the trio of Ryan Arrowood, Seth Grant and Rob Marcello the entire season for weekend series. Jamie Nunn and Jeffrey Springs are a pair of freshman who can really deliver the ball to the plate and have started ten games combined. As previously mentioned, Arrowood is the likely start against Oklahoma. Arrowood is 10-0 on the year with 4.03 ERA. Arrowood is Appalachian’s all time wins leader with 27. In the bullpen is closer Nathan Hyatt (1-0, 15 S, 3.46) who has high 90’s speed on his fastball, but can be a little wild. Tyler Moore and David Port have been the regular set up men who have pitched the most in relief, but both have been erratic of late. Coming on has been Jordan Jessup and Ryne Frankoff. Will Helms is a left hander who comes on in situational appearances.
Appalachian’s game against Oklahoma which was originally scheduled for Friday at 8pm, was moved up a few hours pending inclement weather. The weather was so bad, it delayed both games on Friday. Virginia & Army are still stuck in the first inning and will start at 1pm while Appalachian and Oklahoma will get started at 6pm on Saturday.
Appalachian’s Ryan Arrowood took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and Ryne Frankoff held off Oklahoma in the ninth inning to win their opening game of the NCAA Charlottesville Regional. Oklahoma’s Caleb Bushyhead singled up the middle in the seventh inning to break up the no hitter and Arrowood received a standing ovation from a crowd of 2,084. Arrowood allowed another hit and a run in the 8th inning, but that was all Oklahoma could handle from Arrowood, who became the nation’s winningest pitcher at 11-0. Nathan Hyatt came in for the extended save in the 8th, but ran into trouble in the ninth. Frankoff came on and finished off the Sooners with a walk and a strikeout. Oklahoma scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth before falling to Appalachian 5-4.
The Mountaineers began the scoring in the third inning when Trey Holmes led off the inning with a double. Preston Troutman was able to bunt Holmes to third base. A single by Noah Holmes scored Trey Holmes. Tyler Zupcic singled sharply to give Appalachian runners on first and second base. Will Callaway reached on error, scoring Noah Holmes, but Zupcic was gunned down at the plate trying to score from first base.
The score remained 2-0 for Appalachian until the the eighth inning when Appalachian and Oklahoma traded runs. The Mountaineers would score two more runs in the ninth inning which was just enough insurance to hold off the Sooners 5-4, for the Mountaineers first NCAA win since 1973. The win also gave Appalachian their first 40-win season since 1986. Appalachian advanced in the winners bracket to play regional host Virginia.