Jones era begins at ASU
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The Mountaineers play at No. 8 N.C. State for a three game series that begins tonight and ends Sunday. Appalachian State, the regular-season co-champs of the SoCon, has played ranked teams before.
Most recently, the Mountaineers, who finished 41-18 overall, 21-9 in the SoCon last year, beat No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 15 Virginia in the 2012 Charlottesville (Va.) Regional.
The Mountaineers upset the Sooners and the Cavaliers in their first two games, but then lost twice to Oklahoma in the finals.
Appalachian State also beat then No. 7 LSU two times in the early part of the 2012 season. South Carolina, which was also ranked, escaped an ASU upset bid later in the season.
“I think we’re ready,” said Will Calloway, who is a preseason third-team All-American and first-team All-SoCon shortstop. “The team has been coming together well. We haven’t been on the field too much, but guys are starting to know their roles and guys have been stepping up and filling in for guys we lost last year.”
Appalachian State will face N.C. State with a completely new weekend rotation. Gone are Ryan Arrowood and Seth Grant, the cornerstones of last year’s rotation. The Mountaineers’ third starter, Rob Marcello, was moved to closer.
Marcello, who was 6-5 last year with a 5.31 ERA and 48 strikeouts, replaces Nathan Hyatt, who set a school record with 16 saves.
“We just think it fit him better,” Jones said. “It’s something that we needed. We wanted to make sure the bullpen was strong and we wanted a guy who could finish the game in the end.”
A pair of sophomores, Jamie Nunn and Jeffery Springs, were promoted to the starting rotation. Transfer Sam Agnew-Wieland, who pitched at Middle Georgia College last year, is the third weekend starter.
Nunn, a freshman All-American, had a 5-2 record with a 4.24 ERA last season.
and 45 strikeouts to just 16 walks. Springs finished 2-1 last year with a 4.80 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched.
“It’s definitely new,” Jones said. “We’re going to go with Nunn on Friday and Springs on Saturday and Sam Angew-Wieland on Sunday, so those are all fresh starts for those guys. It’s definitely a new rotation with some younger guys and with some older guys in the bullpen. It’s a completely different look than last year.”
Appalachian State’s offense, and middle defense, is anchored by preseason All-SoCon second baseman Hector Crespo and shortstop Will Calloway. Crespo hit .308 and had 30 stolen bases, while Calloway hit .320 with four home runs, 53 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
Preston Troutman (.295, 25 RBIs) moves from left field to right field and Noah Holmes (.241, 22 RBIs) returns to third.
Appalachian State also promoted former West Wilkes standout junior Josh Zumbrook, and sophomore Alex Leach to first base. Brandon Burris, a sophomore, takes over for Troutman in left field, and Jaylin Davis, a freshman from Northeast Guilford, is in center field for senior Tyler Zupcic, who is still recovering from a knee injury suffered in ASU’s first regional game against Oklahoma.
Jones said his transition to Appalachian State has gone well.
“We’ve spent the last six or seven weeks trying to figure out who these guys are and they can figure out who we are,” Jones said. “You’ve got to do that before you can do anything else. They’ve responded real well and they’ve worked hard, so we’re excited to see what they can do.”