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Prep baseball: Mustangs sign with App. State

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
An Appalachian State assistant was in the bleachers with instructions to scout East Rowan third baseman Noah Holmes last spring, but it was hard not to notice that the Mustangs’ 5-foot-9, 150-pound relief pitcher was firing nasty stuff.
Heat. Darting slider. Unhittable curve. More heat.
Who the heck is this guy, the coach wondered. The radar gun says 87. Wait, that one was 89. Better find out.
That’s the day the Mountaineers got interested in Preston Troutman, and they hadn’t even seen him play shortstop yet.
Troutman and Holmes signed with Appalachian State’s baseball program during this week’s early signing period.
A fellow even better known than the talented East seniors also signed his National Letter of Intent to play at ASU. That’s Noah’s older brother, Trey, a Pitt Community College sophomore and former East star who put up one of the greatest Legion seasons in Rowan history this summer.
If you think ASU head coach Chris Pollard is smiling right now, you’re right.
“That’s a lot of athletic ability right there,” he said. “Three left-handed sticks, and that’s a point of emphasis for us. Three guys who can not only play but who know how to play because they’ve had coaching from people we respect ó Brian Hightower, Tommy Eason and Jim Gantt. I can see all three of those guys out there together for us someday.”
Troutman was the shortstop while the Holmes brothers manned the corners for a Rowan Legion team that was 39-10 and claimed state and regional championships.
Combine their numbers and they batted .394 with 24 homers, 46 doubles and 152 RBIs. Pollard, who coached at Pfeiffer before heading to Boone, would’ve been excited to have landed any of the trio. Instead, he got them all.
“It was never a package deal or anything like that,” he said. “We recruited all three separately. But all three of those guys are close. That factored in.”
There are many positives surrounding Pollard’s program, which landed West Rowan graduate Randy Shepherd, a right-handed pitcher, last fall.
ASU has a year-old, $5 million stadium. Pollard’s teams have won 30-plus games three straight years. The program plays in the Southern Conference, which produced 30 draft picks last June.
“It’s a pretty strong selling point when you can tell recruits your conference is ranked No. 8 in America, but they can still play in front of mom, dad, grandpa and grandma,” Pollard said.
The Mountaineers started their pursuit with Noah Holmes. They knew all about him by the fall of 2008 and invited him to Boone for their annual Junior Day.
Next, ASU assistant coach Josh Jordan, who played at Catawba, watched Trey Holmes flash his leather at first base for Pitt.
Johnson’s report back to Pollard?
“Uh, Chris, I think we missed this guy coming out of high school. And he’s Noah’s brother.”
Missing Trey out of high school was understandable. He was battling an arm injury and wasn’t as powerful physically then as he is now.
Last summer, Pollard observed Troutman closely in the State Games and knew he wanted him.
“He’s an explosive athlete who can throw that ball 90 mph across the infield,” Pollard said. “We like him as a middle infielder and pitcher. We recruited him as both.”
Finally, Pollard got to a Rowan Legion game early and watched all three prospects practice and prepare to play. He was completely sold after that.
“I think it really came down to Western Carolina and us for all three guys,” Pollard said. “We feel fortunate. We’ve added three great players and two great families to our program.”
 

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