The Citadel draws red-hot App State
To earn the No. 3 seed in the Southern Conference Tournament, The Citadel baseball team had to win its last eight league games, including a season-ending sweep of rival College of Charleston.
The Bulldogs' reward — a first-round date with the hottest team in the SoCon.
No SoCon team has finished better than No. 6 seed Appalachian State, which takes on The Citadel at 1 p.m. today at Fluor Field in Greenville.
The Mountaineers, under fifth-year coach Chris Pollard, won 26 of their final 31 games, zooming from a disastrous 1-9 start in league play to a final SoCon record of 15-13.
Those final 31 games included winning streaks of eight and nine games, series victories over Furman, Samford, College of Charleston, Wofford and UNC Greensboro and a 9-7 win over Tennessee of the SEC.
"They are definitely a different team than when we played them up there in Boone back in March," said Citadel coach Fred Jordan. "For them to overcome what they have from the start to
where they are now, it's no doubt that it's a tough, tough draw."
The Citadel won two of three from the Mountaineers in mid-March, dropping the opener 10-6 before winning the final two games 12-3 and 19-2.
A 3-1 victory over Georgia Southern on March 22, salvaging the third game of that series, seemed to flip the switch for App State, which was 6-14 overall and 1-9 in the SoCon before that game.
Improved pitching has been the key to App State's turnaround, particularly the work of all-SoCon reliever Zach Quate, a senior right-hander who is 2-1 with a 1.19 ERA and 11 saves.
"In my career as a player and as a coach, I've never been around a pitcher as automatic as Zach," Pollard said during the season.
"As soon as he steps on the mound, there's a sense that the game is over."
Another senior right-hander, Aubrey Edens, is App State's usual Friday night starter. Edens is 6-3 with a 5.30 ERA this season.
But it was 6-4, 225-pound junior Matt Andress (3-5, 6.00 ERA) who beat SoCon pitcher of the year Wes Wrenn back on March 13. Andress, a righty, gave up six hits and three earned runs in six innings of a 10-6 victory over The Citadel.
At the plate, App State is led by senior third baseman Isaac Harrow, who was squeezed off of the coaches' all-SoCon team despite a .433 batting average, 12 home runs and 75 RBIs. (College of Charleston's Joey Bergman and Elon's Chase Austin, both third baseman, were co-players of the year).
App State finished sixth in the league in runs scored, just behind The Citadel, and third in team ERA (5.23), behind The Citadel and Georgia Southern.
The Citadel-App State winner will play at 5 p.m. Thursday against the winner of No. 2 GSU vs. No. 7 Davidson.