Nathan Hyatt (Brevard, N.C./Brevard) matched a school record with his 13th save of the season to close out 24th-ranked Appalachian State University baseball’s 5-3 win over Gardner-Webb on Tuesday evening at Beaver Field at Jim and
Bettie Smith Stadium. With the win, Appalachian moved to 37-12 overall and closed its 2012 home slate with a 24-2 record at Smith Stadium.
Pitching was the story of the night for the Mountaineers, as eight ASU hurlers combined to limit Gardner-Webb (28-25) to just two earned runs. Making his first start in over two months, true freshman Jeffrey Springs (Belmont, N.C./South Point) surrendered one run over three innings to earn the win and move to 2-0 on the season while the Apps’ seven relievers limited GWU to just one earned run on four hits over the game’s final seven stanzas.
Thanks to the sterling pitching, Appalachian got nearly all the scoring it would need when it plated three runs in the bottom of the first inning to grab a 3-1 lead. True freshman Brandon Burris (Concord, N.C./Mount Pleasant) highlighted the first-inning outburst with a two-out, two-run double.
Gardner-Webb sliced the deficit to 3-2 with an unearned run in the top of the fourth but the Mountaineers answered with an RBI single by Preston Troutman (Rockwell, N.C/East Rowan) in the bottom of the frame. The Apps stretched the advantage to 5-2 in the fifth when Tyler Zupcic (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) scored on the Bulldogs’ second error of the evening.
GWU pulled within two runs on Brad Collins’ mammoth leadoff homer in the sixth but would get no closer, as the Mountaineers’ final five pitchers combined to allow just one hit while striking out four in four innings.
Hyatt began his record-tying performance inauspiciously when he hit the first batter he faced in the ninth inning. However, he went on to easily retire the final three hitters of the ballgame to nail down his 13th save of the campaign, matching the school record set by former teammate Chris Patterson in 2010. Offensively, Zupcic went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to account for nearly half of the Mountaineers’ five runs and seven hits.
With the non-conference portion of its regular-season schedule in the books, Appalachian makes a quick turnaround for a three-game Southern Conference series at archrival Western Carolina, which begins on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Hennon Stadium in Cullowhee, N.C. With any combination of two wins over WCU and/or College of Charleston losses at UNC Greensboro, the Mountaineers would clinch no less than a share of its first SoCon championship since 1987.
NOTES: Appalachian finished 11-0 in non-conference home games this season ... the Mountaineers are 46-7 in non-conference tilts at Smith Stadium since the facility opened in 2007 ... Hyatt’s 13 saves are three more than the SoCon’s second-highest total and rank among the top 10 nationally ... since missing two games with a knee injury early this month, Zupcic has hit safely in seven-straight contests with six multi-hit efforts and a gaudy .556 average (15-for-27) during that stretch ... catcher Jeremy Dowdy (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield) did not play for the first time since the first weekend of the season due to a minor back injury ... Dowdy is expected to be at full strength for this weekend’s series at WCU ... first pitch was delayed by 47 minutes due to rain..... No. 24 Appalachian State closes home portion of schedule with 24-2 record at Smith Stadium.....ASU's Nathan Hyatt ties school record with 13th save of the season (prev: Chris Patterson - 2010).
Photo Courtesy: Nathan Hyatt, ASU Athletics