"I think everybody was shocked," Horton said.
Needless to say the Ducks won't shy away from the 6-foot-5 righty when he starts on the mound for the Cardinal on Friday.
Last year the the Ducks got the best of Appel, well, at least the final outcome, a 4-2 win over Stanford in 10 innings. Appel tossed nine innings, striking out 13 batters and giving up no earned runs. But the Ducks, who hit him 10 times, see the silver lining.
"It's cool because I get to face him another time and get to prove that hopefully we can hit this kind of pitching. I love the challenge. If he wants to come back, great, hopefully we can beat him," said outfielder Brett Thomas. Thomas was 2-for-5 against Appel in 2012.
"I thought our at-bats against him last year were pretty special," Horton said. "It wasn't that we raked him by any stretch of the imagination… Duck after Duck had quality at-bats."
The scouting report for Appel, according to Thomas, is that he's "firm", meaning he throws a fastball that has topped triple-digits before and a power slider in the 90s. He'll mix in a good change as well, Thomas says.
"All pitchers throw mistakes and we have to be ready for their mistakes. Especially like a guy like Appel… once he makes that mistake we have to jump all over it. We can't miss," he said.
Appel is 7-2 this year with a 1.54 ERA, he's struck out 84 batters in just over 70 innings.
Beating Appel and the Cardinal will come down to a team effort, Horton says.
"I think if you can get one hit [each] against Appel and a lot of guys get quality at-bats, that's a pretty good day. If you end up with nine hits and walks… that's a pretty good day."
After Appel, the Ducks won't know what to expect on the mound, as of Wednesday's interview Horton wasn't sure who'd start Saturday or Sunday. Three pitchers outside of Appel have made five or more starts this season.
"They're a little thinner on the mound than in past years," Horton said.
Same Rotation For Ducks
Horton has elected to stick with same rotation he's used the past two weeks, with Tommy Thorpe on Friday, Cole Irvin on Saturday and Jake Reed with the final start on Sunday. Horton "likes the way it's functioning", especially using Irvin as the middle starter to give the bullpen a break between games.
Through ten starts, Irvin has thrown an average of seven innings a start, including two complete games, while the other two pitchers average six per start.
Horton acknowledges the difficulty that the Stanford offense will provide. Unlike the Bruins, who took two-of-three from the Ducks, who are last in the league in batting average and tenth in slugging percentage, Stanford is near the top in both categories and is coming off a three-straight double-digit outings.
"I'd rather play a UCLA or Vanderbilt type team with our characteristic, than a team we have to outscore to win," he said. "Stanford on paper looks like a team you have to score some runs against no matter who's pitching."
Irvin doesn't believe opposing pitchers have been aggressive enough with the Cardinal batters.
"You've just got to attack them. I think staying away from these guys or pitching around them is not going to be to our advantage," he said.
Oregon entered last weekend with a nation's best .988 field percentage, but committed five errors against in the series with UCLA and five more inTuesdays' win at Portland. Horton was especially disappointed in the team's approach, calling them "complacent" against the Pilots.
"Hopefully we've got those behind us and we can figure out a way to score runs," he said.
Horton and the Ducks have yet to beat a ranked opponent in a series this season and have used that as extra motivation heading into the series with Stanford. Horton hopes the complacency he saw Tuesday is not a factor over the weekend.
"We've got a ways to go to call ourselves national contenders, even league contenders for that matter, until we can prove that we can at least get a series from the likes of Stanford and Oregon State," he said. "We talk about how we want to be champions, but actions speak louder than words. These guys accept and embrace challenge pretty good, when I present that to them maybe that'll get them going a little better."
Sherfy Named To Watch List
Oregon closer Jimmie Sherfy has been named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, an honor given to the top reliever in NCAA Division I baseball.
Sherfy is second in the nation in saves with 13 while boasting a 2-0 record with a 0.96 ERA. He has struck out 29 hitters in 28.0 innings pitched, while allowing just three earned runs on 19 hits with nine walks.
The Ducks and Cardinal start the three-game series Friday at 6 p.m. at PK Park, and follow it up with a 2 p.m. start Saturday and 12:30 Sunday.