BOONE, N.C. — App State’s baseball team opens its fourth season under head coach Kermit Smith on Friday with a three-game series at Gardner-Webb.
Friday and Saturday’s games are set for 4 p.m., while Sunday’s matchup is slated for 2 p.m. at John Henry Moss Stadium in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. All three games will stream live on ESPN+.
The Mountaineers hold a 27-18 record against the Runnin’ Bulldogs since 1977, including a 5-2 record during Smith’s tenure.
Gardner-Webb finished 25-26 in 2019 with a 14-13 record in Big South Conference play. Head coach Jim Chester begins his first season with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Here are the probable starting pitching matchups:
App State Baseball would like to thank AutoStar Nissan of Boone for serving as the presenting sponsor of the 2020 season.
SETTING THE STAGE
The Mountaineers begin their fourth season under head coach Kermit Smith with a road series at Gardner-Webb. The Mountaineers have kicked off their past three seasons on the road, dropping season-opening contests to VMI in 2017, UNCG in 2018 and Tennessee in 2019. App State’s most recent season-opening victory came in 2013, when the Mountaineers defeated NC State 6-3 on the road.
In Smith’s first three seasons, App State boasts a 5-2 record over Gardner-Webb. In the most recent matchup, the Mountaineers set a Smith Stadium record with 24 runs scored. App State dominated the Runnin’ Bulldogs 24-3, scoring the first 11 runs of the game. A trio of freshmen — Hayden Cross, Luke Drumheller and Dalton Williams — each amassed three RBIs in the lopsided win.
App State looks to build off a 2019 campaign where the Mountaineers finished with a program-best 13 Sun Belt victories, earning a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the first time. In 2019, App State led the Sun Belt in the percentage of at-bats (66%) and innings pitched (57%) by freshmen or sophomores.
The Mountaineers earned two players on the 2020 Preseason All-Sun Belt Team for the first time. Sophomore Luke Drumheller and senior Andrew Papp received the honors after standout performances in 2019.
PROJECTING THE WEEKEND
Tyler Tuthill, who finished 2019 as App State’s Game 1 starter, is projected to continue his Game 1 role on the mound in 2020. The left-handed sophomore recorded 60 strikeouts in a team-high 74.1 innings as a freshman. Tuthill tossed a complete-game shutout against first-place UTA on April 27, allowing just four hits and striking out a career-high eight batters.
Shane Roberts, a right-handed sophomore from Jupiter, Fla., is the projected Game 2 starter in Boiling Springs. Roberts pitched at Palm Beach State in 2019 after spending a season at South Carolina in 2018.
Quinton Martinez, a left-hander from Orlando, Fla., will round out the projected weekend rotation. Martinez played at St. Petersburg College in 2019, finishing with a 3-1 record, a 4.20 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 40.2 innings pitched.
ASSESSING THE BULLPEN
App State moves forward without 2019 Sun Belt ERA champion Kaleb Bowman, who finished the 2019 season with a 3.05 ERA in 62.0 innings pitched. The Mountaineers, however, bring back seniors Papp and Jack Hartman to anchor the App State bullpen.
Papp, a 2020 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team honoree, led the Mountaineers with six saves and finished second on the team with a 3.38 ERA as a junior. The reliever has posted an ERA under 3.40 in both of his seasons at App State, striking out 45 batters and allowing just 14 walks in 42.2 innings pitched in 2019. Opposing batters hit just .226 against the right-hander, which also ranked second among App State pitchers in 2019.
Hartman finished the 2019 season with a 4.98 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched. The Peachtree City, Georgia native posted four strikeouts in a pair of two-inning outings in conference play against Georgia State and Troy this past season. The right-hander’s 20 appearances ranked third on the team in 2019.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
App State returns three hitters who batted over .300 in 2019. Drumheller (.337), Tyler Leek (.323) and Kendall McGowan (.305) led the Mountaineers in the batter’s box with each student-athlete scoring at least 28 runs.
Drumheller led the team in five categories – batting average (.337), RBIs (37), hits (67), doubles (15) and on-base percentage (.401). McGowan and Leek tied for a team-high four triples, and McGowan tied with senior Luke Allison with a team-best 11 stolen bases.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
App State’s fielding percentage dipped from .969 in 2018 to .963 in 2019. Even with the drop, the percentage ranks No. 10 in program history. Smith’s teams have finished inside the top 10 in fielding percentage in each of his three seasons. Outfielders Alex Leshock and McGowan both made just one error apiece this past season.
BRINGING THE HEAT
App State pitchers combined for 406 strikeouts in 2019, which ranked eighth in school history. The Mountaineers have posted totals of 411, 430 and 406 during Smith’s tenure as App State’s head coach, all of which rank inside the top 10 in school history. Four Mountaineers — 2019 senior Brandon Boone, Tuthill, Bowman, and Papp each recorded 45 strikeouts or more this past season. Boone led the team with 67, while Tuthill followed closely behind at 60.
HAVING THE CAROLINAS ON THEIR MIND
The Mountaineers play 23 total games against 11 different teams located in either North or South Carolina this season. App State’s season-opening trip to Gardner-Webb marks the first three of seven games against teams in the Carolinas in the opening month. The Mountaineers will host Wake Forest on April 15 and North Carolina for the first time in program history on May 12.
PREVIEWING THE SUN BELT
In 2019, the conference slate was highlighted by a weekend sweep over UTA and wins against Texas State, Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern. The Sun Belt finished as the 10th-best league out of all 31 Division I conferences in 2019, according to warrennolan.com.
D1 Baseball recognized three Mountaineers in its 2020 Sun Belt Conference Preview, including freshman Noah Hall. Hall, a freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, was named the No. 4 impact freshman in the conference. The right-handed pitcher finished his senior season with a 9-1 record, 103 strikeouts and a 1.66 ERA.
D1Baseball also named McGowan as the Sun Belt’s No. 19 prospect for the 2020 draft and Tuthill as the league’s No. 10 prospect for the 2021 draft.
South Alabama swept the preseason Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors for D1 Baseball.
GETTING THEIR FEET WET
Of the 35 players listed on App State’s roster, 25 of them are entering either their first or second years with the program.
App State welcomes 10 newcomers this season, comprising six freshmen and four transfers. Two of the transfers, Roberts and Martinez, will begin the season in App State’s weekend starting rotation. Andrew Greckel, a transfer from Chattahoochee Valley Community College, will serve a key utility role for the Mountaineers.
PLAYING IN THE BIG LEAGUES
App State has five alums who played within a MLB organization this past season, highlighed by Jaylin Davis’ call up to the Major Leagues in September. Davis, an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, went 1-for-3 in his Major League debut on Sept. 4. The outfielder then slugged his first MLB home run in style, crushing a walk-off home run to lift the Giants to a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rockies. Davis was named the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2013 for the Mountaineers.
Jeffrey Springs, a former relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers, was traded to the Boston Red Sox in January. Springs pitched a combined 64.1 innings from 2018-19 at the Major League level. He finished with a 3.38 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 2018.
GRADING OUT WELL
In the fall semester, App State baseball finished with a 3.07 GPA, including 24 players surpassing a 3.0. The Mountaineers have posted a team GPA of better than 3.0 in three of the past five semesters. Sixteen players made the academic honor roll, which required student-athletes to maintain a 3.25 GPA or higher during the fall semester.
LOOKING BACK AT SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2019