The headline makes it sound like a depressing post that dreads the end of the season, but it is exactly the opposite. There are a minimum of sixteen games remaining, including two games in the SoCon Tournament, but hopefully there are more. Dreams of an at large bid in the NCAA tournament are just that, not only for Appalachian, but for the entire SoCon. The league will have one representative this year and it will all come down to Memorial Day weekend in Charleston, SC. Although a couple schools have created breathing room in the conference standings, there is not a clear favorite to win in May.
Davidson, who the Mountaineers host this weekend, has been in control for the majority of the conference slate. The Wildcats maintain a four game cushion over the Mountaineers, but there is only a three game difference in the loss column. Positioning is key for the Mountaineers for the SoCon tournament. A sweep by either team this weekend in Boone will be big for the tournament. Appalachian has yet to sweep or be swept by any SoCon school this season. However, the Mountaineer bats are coming alive in their last sixteen games, averaging over seven runs per contest. In the Mountaineers first twenty three games, the Apps failed to score ten or more runs in a game. In the last sixteen games, the Apps have hit double digits in runs in six games.
Even with a more explosive hitting attack, the Mountaineers have been without one of their stars in Dillon Dobson who has had shoulder soreness for several weeks now. Billy Jones has juggled the batting order, but it has worked to their advantage. Five different players have taken their turns swinging the bat efficiently including three who are over .300 on the season. Freshman Matt Brill is currently batting .371 with three home runs. Tyler Stroup has been a nice surprise playing left field, batting .303, with two-thirds of hits being singles on the season. Michael Pierson is batting .309 with five home runs and twenty RBI. Pierson leads the team in hits, walks and total bases and is tied for the team lead in runs scored.
A more important key to Appalachian success this weekend against Davidson is the pitching staff. The weekend rotation of Jamie Nunn, Tyler Moore and Jeffrey Springs has been incredibly solid of late. Nunn has been abused by bad luck the most this season, but his last two starts have been very promising. Tyler Moore has been the biggest surprise of them all. Moore can throw forever, and leads the team with four complete games and sports an 8-2 record with a 3.08 ERA. Sunday starter Jeffrey Springs leads the team in with five starts resulting in a no decision. Springs leads the team in strikeouts despite one fewer start than Nunn and Moore. Assuming 27 innings are played this weekend, Appalachian needs the starters to pitch at least 20-22 innings. The bullpen is limited and cannot be relied on to carry the team.
Davidson has only played two games in the last eleven days, having been victimized by weather with three rain outs. The Wildcats are 3-3 in their last six games and their last three Friday night games have all been decided by one run. Should be a great series to watch in Boone as weather does not seem to be a threat to cancel any games.