The Appalachian State University baseball looks to wrap up its first Southern Conference championship in 25 years when it travels to archival Western Carolina for the final series of the regular season this weekend. The three-game set
is slated for 5 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday at Hennon Stadium in Cullowhee, N.C.
There will be no radio coverage of Thursday's series opener but the Appalachian IMG Sports Network will broadcast Friday's second game on WATA 1450 AM in Boone and the Triad Sports Network (WCOG 1320 AM - Greensboro). Should Saturday's regular-season finale have a bearing on the championship race, it will also be broadcast on WATA and the Triad Sports Network. As always, the radio broadcasts can also be heard live online by clicking HERE.
The pivotal matchup in Cullowhee is one of three series that could play a part in determining the SoCon champion on the final weekend of the regular season. Second-place College of Charleston (35-17, 19-8 SoCon) plays Thursday-Saturday at UNC Greensboro while third-place Elon (29-24, 18-10 SoCon) wraps up a three-game set versus The Citadel on Thursday and Friday.
First-place Appalachian (37-12, 20-7 SoCon) is the only club that controls its own destiny for the SoCon title. The Mountaineers' magic number is two, meaning that any combination of two wins over WCU and/or Charleston losses at UNCG would give Appalachian at least a share of its first SoCon championship since 1987. A combination of three ASU wins/CofC losses would give the Apps their sixth SoCon title outright, as long as that total includes at least one Mountaineer victory.
Elon kept its slim hopes for a piece of the SoCon championship alive by winning the first game of its home series versus The Citadel on Wednesday night. The only way that the Phoenix can earn a share of the conference crown is to sweep The Citadel while hoping for Appalachian to lose all three games at WCU and Charleston to drop at least two at UNCG.
In the event of ties in the final conference standings, seeding for next week's SoCon Tournament will be determined as follows:
• if Appalachian finishes in a tie for first place with College of Charleston, the Mountaineers receive the No. 1 seed by virtue of their series victory over CofC on Easter weekend (April 6-8) in Boone.
• should Elon claim a share of the title, it would be the No. 1 seed thanks to its series victories over Appalachian and Charleston. In the event of a three-way tie, the Mountaineers would be the No. 2 seed.
• if Charleston wins the title outright and Appalachian and Elon finish tied for second, ASU would drop to the No. 3 seed in next week's tournament field.
Adding to the Mountaineers' motivation this weekend is the opportunity to clinch the conference championship on the field of their oldest and fiercest rival. Appalachian has squared off with Western Carolina more than any other opponent on the baseball diamond. The teams have met 141 times since 1955 and the Catamounts own a commanding 84-56-1 advantage over the last 57 years. However, the series has been much more competitive in recent years, as the teams have split 15 meetings since 2008 (7-7-1).
WCU (30-21, 14-13 SoCon) is finishing off a grueling five-week stretch to close its regular season. This weekend's series is the Catamounts' fifth-straight against the SoCon's top five teams. Western has dropped three of the first four series during the arduous stretch and has lost four of its last five games overall.
PITCHING MATCHUPS IN SERIES:
THURSDAY, MAY 17 • 5 P.M.
ASU Sr. RHP Ryan Arrowood (9-0, 3.66 ERA) vs. WCU So. RHP Jordan Smith (4-4, 3.19 ERA)
FRIDAY, MAY 18 • 5 P.M.
ASU Sr. RHP Seth Grant (6-2, 2.82 ERA) vs. WCU Jr. LHP Morgan McKinney (6-3, 3.79 ERA)
SATURDAY, MAY 19 • 1 P.M.
ASU Jr. LHP Rob Marcello (6-3, 4.28 ERA) vs. WCU Fr. RHP Jeremy Null (4-4, 4.88 ERA)
Photo Courtesy: Chris Pollard, ASU Athletics