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Originally published: 2013-05-11 14:53:56
Last modified: 2013-05-11 14:53:54

Mountaineers play at Gonzaga this weekend

by Staff Reports

Appalachian State's baseball team's schedule maker did not do the Mountaineers any favors.

After a week off for final exams, Appalachian State begins a final week of the regular season with three games at Gonzaga. The series began with a doubleheader at 6 p.m. eastern time Saturday. The teams play a single game, also at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Patterson Baseball Complex.

The road does not get any easier for the Mountaineers after the trip to Gonzaga. They return from the west coast next Monday and travel immediately to Chapel Hill to face top-ranked North Carolina on Tuesday. Appalachian begins a regular-season-ending three-game series versus first-place Western Carolina on Thursday at Smith Stadium.

In all, the Mountaineers final seven games of the regular season come against clubs that have combined for a 108-35-1 (.753) record in 2013

Appalachian State must take care of its affairs at Gonzaga first. This weekend's unusual late-season non-conference series was borne of both programs participating in conferences that field an uneven number of baseball-playing schools (11 in Appalachian State's Southern Conference, nine in Gonzaga's West Coast Conference) and a number of teams nationwide sitting out of action this weekend due to final exams and/or graduation exercises.

The trip to Spokane, Wash. marks the first time that Appalachian State has ever played in the Pacific Time Zone. In fact, Appalachian has only ventured west of the Central Time Zone once in its 110-year baseball history, when it participated in the 1969 NAIA World Series in Phoenix, which is in the Mountain Time Zone.

Gonzaga is also just the second opponent from the Pacific Time Zone that the Mountaineers have ever played. Appalachian lost to college-baseball power Stanford, 11-1, in the 1986 NCAA Midwest Regional in Stillwater, Okla.
Appalachian State (25-18, 12-12 SoCon) must also contend with one of the nation's top teams in Gonzaga (31-14-1, 18-6 WCC). The Zags, which clinched the West Coast Conference regular-season championship with a three-game sweep at Santa Clara last weekend, has won five of its last six games overall. The Bulldogs have been nationally ranked on three different occasions this season, reaching has high as No. 21 in late March.

Appalachian State is no stranger to top-notch competition. The Mountaineers own five wins over nationally ranked teams since the beginning of last season, including a 6-3 win over then-No. 8 NC State on the opening day of the 2013 season.

In that win, Appalachian battered N.C. State all-America pitcher Carlos Rodon, handing the likely No. 1 pick of the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft with what is still only one of two losses in his collegiate career.

Since the Mountaineers' convincing victory in Raleigh, N.C. State has compiled a 38-11 overall record and is ranked No. 5 in the latest Baseball America college-baseball poll.

Appalachian State's sophomore right-handed pitcher (9-3, 3.12 ERA), who earned one of his SoCon-leading nine wins when he outdueled Rodon on Opening Day, faces another all-America hurler this weekend when he squares off versus Gonzaga's Marco Gonzalez in the series opener.

Gonzalez, a preseason all-American and Golden Spikes Award candidate, is 6-2 with a 2.93 ERA this season. The left-handed junior ranks second on the team with a .322 batting average and third on the club with 23 RBI, making him a frontrunner for the John Olerud Award (national two-way player of the year).

While Gonzalez has garnered the majority of the headlines for Gonzaga, No. 2 starter Tyler Olson has truly been the Zags' staff ace. The left-handed senior is 9-2 with a 2.17 ERA and .234 opponents' batting average, all good for tops on a staff that boasts a 3.32 ERA as a team.

Appalachian will counter GU's top-notch pitching with a potent lineup anchored by seniors Will Callaway and Hector Crespo. Callaway brings an 18-game hitting streak and team-best .352 batting average into the series, while Crespo has hit safely in 19 of the last 22 games and ranks second on the squad with a .342 average.