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April 1, 2014

Baseball preview: Appalachian State

APPALACHIAN STATE (8-16) at NO. 1 SOUTH CAROLINA (19-3)

When: 7 p.m.
Where: Carolina Stadium
Tickets: Available at the box office
TV: None
Series: South Carolina leads 10-1.
Last meeting: USC won 6-4 in Columbia on March 14, 2012.
Probable starting pitchers
South Carolina Jr. RHP Evan Beal (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 1 BB, 3 K). Appalachian State LHP Jeffrey Springs (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 29.1 IP, 16 BB, 26 K)
Notes: Tuesday's contest is Appalachian's ninth of the season against a Top 25 team, but perhaps its most challenging. Ranked No. 1 in this week'sCollegiate Baseballnewspaper poll, the Gamecocks are 18-0 in non-conference games this season and have won 33 straight non-conference games at Carolina Stadium, dating all the way back to a 3-2 loss to Liberty on Feb. 17, 2013.

Appalachian State is just 1-10 all-time against South Carolina, with the Mountaineers' lone victory over the Gamecocks coming on March 11, 1989 (a 15-8 triumph at USC's former home stadium, Sarge Frye Field). Tuesday's game is Appalachian's second at the Gamecocks' new home, Carolina Stadium, which opened in 2009. In their only previous visit to Carolina Stadium, the Mountaineers jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the No. 3-ranked Gamecocks on March 14, 2012. South Carolina battled back to take a 6-4 lead and App State's upset bid fell just short when USC center fielder Evan Marzilli made a fabulous running catch at the wall to steal what might have been a game-tying two-run home run by Daniel Kassouf in the ninth inning.

Just like it did in its last trip to South Carolina, Appalachian State will send left-handerJeffrey Springs(1-0, 3.38 ERA) to the mound for Tuesday's game. Springs made the third start of his career when the Mountaineers played at USC in 2012 and did not figure in the decision in the 6-4 loss. Now a member of Appalachian's weekend rotation, Springs gets the mid-week assignment after his regularly scheduled start versus UNC-Greensboro on Sunday was canceled due to inclement weather.

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Another midweek game, another opportunity for Evan Beal to make a case.

A week after exceeding expectations with a four-inning, no-hit performance against Coastal Carolina, head coach Chad Holbrook and pitching coach Jerry Meyers will get a second chance to see what role Beal is ready for in 2014 for No. 2 South Carolina (24-3, 6-3).

After sitting most of the second half of 2013 due to control issues and missing the first part of this season with a stress reaction in his back, Beal told the media after the Coastal start that it felt great to be back.

"Win, lose or draw, I was just happy to be out there to be honest with you," Beal said. "When you're sitting out and watching - obviously I'm on the team, but you don't really feel like you're on the team when you're not getting out there contributing."

"We got off to a real hot start this season and I'm proud of what we've been able to do. But coming in (against Coastal) and actually being able to get some action and be out there and contribute to a win was a whole lot better than sitting back so long and having to watch."

Beal will face an App State team that's struggling at the plate, hitting just .222 as a team. The Mountaineers aren't much better on the mound, carrying a staff ERA Of 4.12 to the Gamecocks' 1.75.

Grayson Greiner, who is tied for the team lead in batting average with Connor Bright at .356 and leads the team with 29 RBI, was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday for his performance against Tennessee this past weekend. Max Schrock leads the team in home runs with five.

WHAT TO WATCH: Evan Beal wants to pitch. The coaches want to see what he's capable of. For Beal, every batter is an opportunity to make a case to get in the game. Against an Appalachian State team not likely to pose a significant threat, Beal will need to be sharp if he hopes to lock down the midweek starting spot that is up for grabs going forward.





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