Daniel Kassouf’s (Lexington, N.C./North Davidson) would-be game-tying home run was hauled in at the wall in the top of the ninth inning and No. 3 South Carolina edged Appalachian State University baseball, 6-4, on Wednesday evening at Carolina Stadium. Behind first-inning home runs
from Will Callaway (Greenville, S.C./Eastside) and Tyler Tewell (Charlotte, N.C./Butler), Appalachian (14-3) jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead but South Carolina (15-1) clawed its way back with a run in the second, two in the fourth and three in the seventh before holding on in the ninth to snap the Mountaineers’ 12-game winning streak.
Tyler Zupcic (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) led off the ninth inning with a line-drive single into center field. Zupcic moved to second on a Callaway groundout to bring Kassouf, Appalachian’s leader with five home runs, to the plate with one out. Kassouf crushed the first pitch from South Carolina closer Evan Beal towards left center field for what looked like it might have been a game-tying two-run homer. However, USC center fielder Evan Marzilli made a fabulous running catch at the wall for the second out of the inning then turned and fired the ball back into the infield to easily double up Zupcic at second base for a game-ending double play.
The base-running error at the end of the ballgame was one of several miscues for Appalachian in the heartbreaking loss. In addition to going nearly eight full innings without a baserunner, ASU also issued 10 walks, made three errors and extended a couple of USC innings by failing to turn what likely could have been double plays.
Despite the sloppy play, the Mountaineers more than held their own against the two-time-defending national champions. Appalachian burst out of the gates with back-to-back singles to lead off the game from Hector Crespo (Miami, Fla./Florida Christian) and Zupcic before Callaway drove a 1-0 pitch from USC starter Jordan Montgomery into the ASU bullpen in left center field to give the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead before most of the 7,278 fans in attendance had even settled into their seats. In fact, before the Gamecocks had even recorded an out, ASU became the first team besides Clemson to score more than two runs against South Carolina all season.
Two batters later, Tewell made it 4-0 with a mammoth solo shot to right. However, that would be the last baserunner the Mountaineers would have until Zupcic’s leadoff single in the ninth, as four Gamecock pitchers combined to retire 23-straight ASU batters.
While South Carolina kept the Apps’ bats at bay, USC slowly chipped away at the early deficit and took its first lead of the game on Marzilli’s three-run double in the seventh. Marzilli was the Gamecocks’ hero on the evening, finishing 2-for-5 with four RBI to go along with the game-saving defensive play in the ninth.
Zupcic had two of ASU’s five hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, the Mountaineers’ longest of the season. Callaway’s homer was his first of the season while Tewell’s was his second.
Tyler Webb (2-0) worked 1.2 perfect innings out of the bullpen to earn the win for USC while Chad Farmer (Evans, Ga./Greenbrier) was tagged with the loss for ASU to even his record at 1-1.
After splitting mid-week contests at Duke and South Carolina, Appalachian returns home this weekend for a three-game Southern Conference series versus perennial league power The Citadel. Game times are set for 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at ASU’s Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium.
NOTES: Appalachian’s 12-game winning streak was snapped just two games shy of the school record of 14-straight wins, set from March 27-April 12, 1986 ... for the first time in 17 games season, ASU surrendered more than four runs ... prior to this year, the most consecutive games that Appalachian had ever gone at the beginning of a campaign without surrendering more than four runs in any game was six, a feat achieved just last season ... Kassouf had the longest hitting streak of his career snapped at nine ... Jeremy Dowdy (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield) didn’t reach base for the first time in his 16 games this season ... however, Tewell reached base for the 13th-straight game, Zupcic and Callaway got aboard for the 12th-consecutive contest and Crespo reached safely for the 10th game in a row ... Appalachian lost for only the third time in its last eight games versus opponents from the baseball-rich Southeastern Conference.
Photo Courtesy: Will Callaway, by Dave Mayo, ASU Athletics