After a successful first season under Head Coach Kermit Smith, the mountaineer’s baseball team hoped to fly out of the gate this season and had high expectations. Up to this point in the season however, the team is 6-16, including 0-6 in the conference. A slow start could damage some team’s ego, but the Mountaineers will look to shake it off with a series of important conference games upcoming.
At the Pre-season press conference, Coach Smith stated, “The team is a little disproportioned in terms of newcomers and returning players, several newcomers will have a big impact and winning is the most important thing at the end at the end of the day.” Thus far in the season, the team is still working to build good chemistry, which was expected to take time with 18 new players to go along with only 13 old ones. It was emphasized that the newcomers and younger players needed to communicate as best as possible to help make the team flow better together. So far that has been somewhat of an issue, but older players have been keen to step up and help the team. Senior pitcher Luke Watts stated, “I just try to lead by example, and set the best example I can for the freshman.” This isn’t to say that freshman haven’t had a significant impact on the team this season though, as freshman Kendall McGowan is currently leading the team is batting average hitting a .286. To go along with this heavy level of offense coming from the newcomers, the team’s current ERA leader is a freshman as well. Will Sprinkle has been one of the pleasant surprises of the team along with McGowan as he is currently leading the team with a 2.25 ERA in relief appearances this season.
Although App has struggled early on, the season is long, and the argument could be made that some of the early season struggles are because up to this point, App has only played one home series. The team will look to get back on track with an important series against Georgia Southern coming up this weekend. After a single game at Radford on April 3, App will return home for their first home series in a little over a month. That series will be against Troy, which will be important conference games that App must win at this point after starting 0-6 in the conference. If the Mountaineers can win this 3-game stand, they will perhaps have enough momentum to take down the UNC Tarheels on April 10th. A win in that game could serve as a statement and help push App on a late season run before the Sun Belt Conference Championships take place in late May.
Despite the slow start, the impacts of the young players and the continuous development of team chemistry will hopefully lead to a strong finish to the season in what appears to be a disappointing season at the moment.