Appalachian State University baseball begins its quest for a second-straight NCAA Regional appearance on Wednesday when it opens the 2013 Southern Conference Baseball Tournament versus The Citadel. First pitch is set for 10 a.m. at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.
The Appalachian IMG Sports Network radio broadcast of every Appalachian State postseason game can be heard on WATA 1450 AM in Boone, the Triad Sports Network in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point and worldwide by clicking HERE.
Appalachian State is the tournament's No. 5 seed after finishing the regular season with a 28-22 overall record and a 13-14 mark in SoCon play. The Citadel (32-24, 18-12 SoCon) is the field's No. 4 seed.
The tournament features two double-elimination brackets with the survivor of each bracket facing off in a winner-takes-all championship game on Sunday at 2 p.m. The winner of Sunday's championship contest receives the SoCon's automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Baseball Championship and begins regional play on Friday, May 31 or Saturday, June 1.
In addition to fourth-seeded The Citadel, Appalachian's half of the eight-team SoCon Tournament field includes regular-season champion and top-seeded Western Carolina (38-18, 23-7 SoCon) and No. 8-seeded Samford (27-28, 12-17 SoCon).
On paper, Wednesday's tournament opener looks to be destined for a pitchers' duel, as the matchup pits the SoCon's first-team all-conference pitchers — Appalachian State So. RHP Jamie Nunn versus The Citadel's SoCon Pitcher of the Year, Sr. RHP Austin Pritcher (8-2, 2.45 ERA).
Appalachian suffered its only series sweep of the season when it lost all three games at The Citadel (April 19-21). Despite the sweep, all three games were decided by three runs or less.
Wednesday's meeting will be the 12th between Appalachian State and The Citadel at the SoCon Tournament. The Citadel has won seven of the previous 11 SoCon Tournament matchups between the two clubs.
The Mountaineers have not had much postseason success against any of the three teams in its bracket, as they are a combined 7-20 all-time against The Citadel (4-7), Western Carolina (3-10) and Samford (0-3) at the SoCon Tournament. Additionally, the Apps were just 3-5 against those three foes during the 2013 regular season.
However, Appalachian State has enjoyed some recent success at the SoCon Tournament. Although it has not won the tournament since 1984 (the event's inaugural year), Appalachian has won at least one game in every SoCon Tournament appearance since 1996 (11-straight appearances with at least one victory). The Mountaineers have six tournament victories in the last three years and earned semifinal berths in 2010 and 2011.
Appalachian also enters the tournament on a high note after rallying from an 8-1 seventh-inning deficit to defeat No. 29 Western Carolina, 9-8, in last Saturday's regular-season finale. The victory snapped the regular-season champs' 16-game SoCon winning streak and was the Mountaineers' sixth over a nationally ranked team since the beginning of last season.
The thrilling victory over WCU capped a seven-game stretch to close the regular season. Each of Appalachian's final seven games were against opponents that won their respective conferences' regular-season titles (three games at West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga, one at Atlantic Coast Conference champion North Carolina and three versus SoCon champion Western Carolina). The Mountaineers went a respectable 3-4 during the demanding stretch, which included 5,620 miles of travel during a five-day span.
The winner of Wednesday's Appalachian-Citadel tournament opener will play the winner of the first-round matchup between WCU and Samford on Thursday evening at either 5 or 8:30 p.m. The losers of opening-round contests will square off in an elimination game on Thursday at 10 a.m.