NSSA Weekend: Rowan athletes flourish at Appalachian State

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

By Mike London
SALISBURY — Appalachian State play-by-play man David Jackson is best known for his inspired 2007 call of the Mountaineers’ football heroics at Michigan, but his duties also include 30 ASU baseball games each season — everything but the longest road trips.
Jackson will rejoin the Mountaineers when they play at UNC on Tuesday, but ASU is at College of Charleston this weekend. That gave Jackson, an NSSA board member and 2007 state broadcaster of the year, an opportunity to attend NSSA festivities.
Camped on a Holiday Inn couch and seated next to his Teddy Bear-toting daughter, Maren, Jackson wasn’t far from Staton Field, Newman Park and Ludwig Stadium and was eager to discuss the local players at ASU.
Jackson gave pitcher Garrett Sherrill (A.L. Brown), catcher Jerod Faggart (Northwest Cabarrus) and infielder Wes Hobson, who was born in Rowan, a thumps-up as program-changers for ASU baseball.
“Appalachian’s grown from a program where they were lucky to win 20 to a place where they challenge for 35 wins,” Jackson said. “Sherrill was so versatile. You could hand him the ball in the third inning or you could hand it to him in the ninth. Either way, you knew he’d get the job done.”
East Rowan grads Trey Holmes, Noah Holmes and Preston Troutman are current team members.
“Trey had a great track record coming in from Pitt (Community College), and offensively, he’s been everything that was expected,” Jackson said. “Defensively, he’s been better than anyone anticipated. We lost a tremendous defensive first baseman (David Towarnicky), but we didn’t miss a beat. Trey has made a young infield look a little bit older.”
Holmes is batting .283 with six homers and a team-best 40 RBIs. Those numbers aren’t staggering, but stats are way down all over.
“The bat rule changes knocked 25 points off batting averages and homers and RBIs have almost been cut in half,” Jackson said. “As a baseball purist, I like it. Guys have to play the right way now. There are no more excuse-me doubles.”
Troutman was projected to be a backup infielder as a freshman, Instead, he’s taken charge in left field and is batting .294.
“It was a revolving door in left early, but Preston needed a place to play,” Jackson said. “He can run, and he’s got tenacity and fire. He’s made so many diving catches. He’s brought a spark that you really don’t expect from a young guy.”
Noah Holmes hasn’t played a lot (12 games, 20 at-bats), but Jackson believes his future is bright.
“Like Trey and Preston, he’s a winner, and he gets baseball,” Jackson said. “Not playing is hard on a young guy, but I’ve been very impressed with how hard he’s kept working to improve.”
In the football arena, Jackson anticipates a monster senior season from defensive lineman Gordy Witte, a Salisbury product.
Witte, who hurt his back after three games in 2007 and received a medical redshirt, is one of the few remaining Mountaineers who experienced that amazing day in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“We’ve changed the defense, and he’s going to be a starter at end,” Jackson said. “He had a great spring. He’s being counted on as the leader of his group.”
Jackson forecast a potential breakout for Jamill Lott (A.L. Brown) as a receiver.
“Jamill is part of an incredibly fast group of receivers,” he said. “He’s had injury setbacks (broken finger) and some good people were ahead of him, but he’s learned all the receiver positions. He’ll be productive.”