Will Sprinkle
Bret Strelow

Baseball

Baseball Hosts Eagles For Midweek Tilt

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State looks to improve to 5-3 in midweek games and 1-0 in midweek home games this year when it faces North Carolina Central (21-18) on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Thanks to a 6-0 road win against N.C. Central on March 13, App State has a 5-1 lead in a series dating back to 2009.

Brandon Boone allowed five hits, recorded seven strikeouts and issued no walks in six scoreless innings at the Durham Athletic Park. Boone, Kaleb Bowman and Luke Watts combined for 12 strikeouts, including six with runners in scoring position.

Joel McDaniel's three RBIs on a three-run double in the ninth led a nine-hit attack, as Drew Beck and CJ Brown had two hits apiece. Alex Leshock scored two runs.

MATCHING UP THE MOUND WITH THE MOUNTAIN

Brandon Boone, who is also set to start the rematch, would be making just his second game appearance in Boone. A junior right-hander, he has started in seven of his eight outings this year.

He has a 3.51 ERA in a starting role, as he's allowed 13 earned runs through 33.1 innings.  

Boone enjoyed the longest outing of his brief career two weeks ago at Radford, where he struck out six batters and allowed one run on four hits, with the only damage coming on a solo homer in the fourth inning. He took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning at No. 12 North Carolina last week.

SPRINKLING IN SOME ZEROES

By throwing four scoreless innings against North Carolina A&T last Wednesday and shutting out Louisiana for 3.2 innings Saturday, freshman reliever Will Sprinkle has lowered his ERA to 0.89 while increasing his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 13.2.

He has allowed only two earned runs over 20.1 innings this season.

Sprinkle had three perfect innings and retired 11 of the 13 batters he faced vs. N.C. A&T, receiving help from a double play after he gave up an infield single and issued a walk with one out in the fifth. 

He retired 11 of the 14 batters he faced Saturday against Louisiana, giving up two walks and allowing one batter to reach on a strikeout.

LEADING THE WAY

With 155 career starts to his credit, senior first baseman Conner Leonard has accounted for three of the team's 12 home runs, increasing his career total to 16.

Leonard went 5-for-10 in the Troy series and had four RBIs in the Louisiana series. He has at least one hit in nine of App State's last 10 games.

CLOSING THE CASE

Senior closer Luke Watts hasn't allowed a run in 14 of his last 16 appearances, a stretch that began with two scoreless innings at UNCW on Feb. 24. 

Watts struck out three batters in two scoreless innings at Radford to begin April and earned his third save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning that required only nine pitches against Troy. He pitched 1.2 innings against UNC last Tuesday, struck out two batters in two-thirds of an inning last Wednesday against North Carolina A&T and had two strikeouts in 1.2 scoreless innings against Louisiana last Friday.

He had scoreless innings with two strikeouts in back-to-back outings against Elon and N.C. Central in mid-March. He added another two-strikeout, one-inning, no-run appearance at Gardner-Webb before striking out one batter in a scoreless inning at South Alabama. He also has saves against UNCG and Marshall. 

Before making 14 starts, issuing only 20 walks in 75.1 innings and posting the best groundball ratio on the team in 2017, Watts came out of the bullpen in all 30 of his appearances as a freshman and sophomore. He led App State relievers with a 2.48 ERA in 2016. 

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