Normally, an 0-8 record for a team in any sport is cause for concern.
It could indicate that certain parts of the team are underperforming, that there is an issue with the way the team is coached or that the squad lacks confidence in their play and each other.
But for Appalachian State baseball, none of those are true. Those who are frustrated and wondering when the currently winless Mountaineers will experience their breakthrough should first take a moment to analyze the early-season challenges the team has faced.
The Mountaineers will turn its season around before it’s too late, and the numerous challenges it’s already faced will be the building blocks.
It would be difficult to find a team in the nation with a tougher schedule in February than the Mountaineers. App State has played seven games against teams ranked in the top 25 of the NCAA, such as Arkansas, N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill, which are ranked No. 25, 6 and 22, respectively.
The only unranked opponent App State has faced, Tennessee, boasts a 7-0 record. The Mountaineers’ pitchers held the Volunteers to seven runs – a mark that is not bad considering Tennessee throttled Purdue 20-2 a few days before the Volunteers met the Mountaineers.
After seeing some of the best squads in the nation, head coach Billy Jones will have his team prepared and will right the ship.
Through the first eight games last season, the Mountaineers were 6-2 and went on to finish with a final mark of 30-24. It is not out of the question to expect App State to match that mark, even with the slow start.
Playing against top-tier teams has illuminated issues and has allowed certain players to build confidence.
The Wolfpack took advantage of nine errors in a three-game sweep of the Mountaineers. Sophomore centerfielder Jaylin Davis broke out of a tough start to the season by hitting a homerun off former USA Baseball Player of the Year Carlos Rodon.
Other Southern Conference schools, which App State will face starting in late March, have mostly enjoyed relatively tame schedules in comparison.
Georgia Southern, which boasts a 7-1 mark, easily took four games from 0-5 Maryland Eastern Shore this month. Second-place Elon, which sits at 6-1, benefited from three wins over another winless program, Wagner College.
While App State should still respect and take seriously its SoCon peers, Wagner College and Maryland Eastern Shore are certainly far cries from Arkansas and N.C. State. While SoCon rivals are improving their record, App State is finding out through experience where improvement is needed.
The Mountaineers have plenty of talent, and when that talent begins to mesh, the wins will come in bunches.
Davis along with senior outfielder Tyler Zupcic and junior pitcher Jamie Nunn were preseason all-Southern Conference honorees. They have struggled early, but when they begin to contribute and lead the team, the script will be different.
By the time the Mountaineers play its first home game March 7, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Mountaineers to have notched at least a couple of wins.
There is plenty of work to be done, but there is certainly no reason to panic. The process of clawing up the SoCon standings begins now, 0-8 record and all.
Column: Cory Spiers, Sports Editor