June 2, 2012
Observations by Barry Davis of Rider
Around the Regionals
Scores & Schedules
App Survive Oklahoma
By Sean Ryan
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. –
Way back in the second weekend of the season,
Appalachian State made early noise by taking two of three at
More than three months later, that series win
“When we got into the dog days of the season, and
a Regional was a possibility, we kind of rallied around that,”
Mountaineers catcher Jeremy Dowdy said.
Playing in its first NCAA Regional in 26 years, a
confident Appalachian State rode the right arm of ace Ryan
Arrowood and held on for dear life in the ninth inning to beat
Oklahoma 5-4 Saturday night to capture its first tourney win
since 1973. The third-seeded Mountaineers advance to meet
top-seeded Virginia, and second-seeded Oklahoma will play
fourth-seeded Army in an elimination game Sunday.
Arrowood, who beat LSU 1-0 back on Feb. 25, took
a no-hitter into the seventh against the Sooners and finished
with two hits, one earned run and nine strikeouts in 7.2
innings. Mixing an upper 80s fastball with a tight breaking ball
and slider, Arrowood (11-0) seldom was hit hard in staying
perfect on the season.
“It goes without saying that Ryan pitched an
incredible ballgame and really set the tone from the first
inning,” ASU coach Chris Pollard said.
Added Dowdy: “There wasn’t a whole lot that
wasn’t working. I was really impressed with both of his breaking
balls, his slider and his curve ball…He’s given us a chance to
win every start he’s had this year.”
Arrowood did that and more against lefty Jordan
John, whose gritty effort kept the Sooners (38-23) in the game.
But John (8-7) had trouble with ASU’s bottom three hitters – all
lefties – who combined for seven of the Mountaineers’ 10 hits.
Trey Holmes, a .249 hitter who had two games with
three or more hits during the regular season, doubled for the
first of his three hits to lead off the third inning and moved
to third on Preston Troutman’s sacrifice bunt. Noah Holmes,
Trey’s little brother who entered hitting .229 and 5 for his
past 32, singled up the middle off second baseman Jack
Mayfield’s attempted backhand for a 1-0 lead. Tyler Zupcic
singled on a John fastball up in the zone to put runners on
first and second. Will Callaway dribbled a ball back to John,
whose throw was wide and helped produce a collision between
Callaway and Evan Mistich at first – Noah Holmes scored on the
play, and Zupcic was gunned down at the plate by right fielder
Cody Reine to end the inning with the Mountaineers (40-16)
John, who allowed eight hits and four runs (two
earned) and struck out seven in pitching into the ninth, avoided
further damage in the fifth, when Trey Holmes (3 for 4, 2 R,
RBI) led off with a single and was bunted to second by Troutman.
Troutman was safe at first when Mayfield covering from second
collided with first base umpire Eddie Newsom when trying to
catch John’s flip at the bag. With runners on first and second,
catcher Tanner Toal fired to second on a failed bunt attempt to
pick off Trey Holmes. And John miraculously took a liner off his
shin and recovered in time near the baseline to retire Zupcic at
“Our lefties felt like there were seeing the ball
pretty good off of him,” Pollard said, adding that John’s change
was among the best he’s seen in his eight years at ASU and made
it tough on right-handed hitters.
Arrowhead, meanwhile, was cruising and made the
2-0 lead stick.
The right-hander needed only 43 pitches to retire
the Sooners from the third through sixth innings. Troutman
preserved the no-hitter and shutout with a tremendous catch in
left on a liner to the warning track by Max White in the sixth
after Arrowhead had hit two batters.
"We were up there guessing a lot," said OU's
Caleb Bushyhead. "Our approach as hitters wasn't great."
Entering the seventh at 76 pitches and his
no-hitter intact, Arrrowood’s pitch count started to elevate.
Mistich had a 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a strikeout
before Bushyhead broke up the no-hit bid with a single to
center. Arrowood struck out the side to end the inning.
“From the start of the game, everything felt like
it was working spot on,” said Arrowood, the Southern Conference
Pitcher of the Year. “I was locating my fastball from the
get-go, and the curve ball was definitely on today.”
App State added a single run without a hit in
the eighth when John walked Zupcic and advanced him to second
with a wild pickoff attempt. Callaway did the job with a
defensive-swing bouncer to second to move Zupcic to third for
Daniel Kassouf, the Mountaineers’ best bat with a .345 average,
17 homers and 60 RBI. Rather than walking Kassouf to go after
lefty Tyler Tewell (0 for 3 at that point), the Sooners elected
to go after Kassouf with off-speed pitches out of the zone. On
the third straight change up, Kassouf lifted a long sacrifice
fly to center for a 3-0 lead.
Arrowood got the first two outs of the eighth –
the second being Erik Ross’ 13-pitch at-bat – and was tiring
fast at more than 120 pitches, as many as he’d thrown in a start
all year. He walked Reine and White; Pollard decided to let him
try to finish the inning. Mustich singled to left to make it 3-1
and end Arrowood’s splendid outing after 137 pitches. Closer
Nathan Hyatt entered, bringing his mid-90s fastball. Mayfield
floated a ball down the right field line that Tewell made a
terrific sliding catch to save two runs.
"That was probably the biggest sigh of relief of
the night," Pollard said.
Pollard admitted he left his ace on the mound for
one or two batters too long, but with good reason. “He’s our
horse,” Pollard said, and maybe more important, the Mountaineers
prefer not to use Hyatt in the eighth. “What’s
been hard for him [Hyatt] is when he’s had to come over and
ASU made Hyatt sit for a while when the lefties
did it again off John in the ninth, with Trey Holmes doubling in
Dowdy, who had doubled and moved to third on an outfield bobble,
to make it 4-1. Noah Holmes scored his brother for the second
time with a deep sacrifice fly to right center, where White
raced over from center and appeared to use a small trampoline to
leap and amazingly catch the shot, fully extended near the
Hyatt came out in the ninth and looked like a
different pitcher. He walked Bushyhead and Matt Oberste
on four pitches then hit Garrett Carey to load the bases. A balk
made it 5-2. Ryne Frankoff relieved and got Chase Simpson to
ground out, but another run scored to close it to 5-3. A wild
pitch made it 5-4, and the Sooners got Reine to second for
White, but White flew out to right to end the game.
“When you’re trying to get that first win at a
Regional for the first time, it can be very difficult,” Sooners
coach Sunny Golloway said of the Mountaineers. “But if you look
at the end, we just didn’t keep it close enough. It was tough
for them to finish it off, but give them credit. They were able
to do it.”
Appalachian State’s reward is a date with another
big-time program, Virginia.
“I’m really proud for our guys,” Pollard said.
“I’m really proud for all of our seniors to come up here and
make a statement like this.”
In a season that started with an opening
statement, the Mountaineers are hoping for a strong closing