Top-seeded Appalachian State University jumped out to a 3-0 lead just five batters into the ballgame but things went downhill quickly from there and the Mountaineers bowed out of the 2012 Southern Conference Baseball Championship with a 13-4 loss to Furman on Friday evening at Fluor Field. With the defeat, Appalachian (39-16) must wait until Monday to learn
whether they will be selected to participate in NCAA regional play for the first time since 1986. With a resume that includes a regular-season Southern Conference championship (the nation’s No. 7 conference according to the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) projections by WarrenNolan.com), a solid top-40 RPI ranking (out of 297 Division I teams), 16 wins over teams currently ranked in RPI top 125 and just two losses to teams currently ranked outside of the RPI top 115, most prognosticators consider the Mountaineers to be a lock for the 64-team NCAA postseason field. However, the Apps won’t know their fate for sure until the regional brackets are unveiled on Monday at noon on ESPNU.
Things couldn’t have started much better for the Mountaineers on Friday night when they pounded out five hits in the first six at-bats of the ballgame to take a quick 3-0 lead. After Hector Crespo (Miami, Fla./Florida Christian) and Tyler Zupcic (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) led off the game with back-to-back base hits, Will Callaway (Greenville, S.C./Eastside) put the Apps on the board with an RBI single on a high chopper to left field. Two batters later, Tyler Tewell (Charlotte, N.C./Butler) extended the advantage to 3-0 with a two-run double off the wall in right center field.
After Tewell’s double, Jeremy Dowdy (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield) singled sharply through the left side to put runners on the corners with just one out. But, in an omen for things to come, Trey Holmes (Rockwell, N.C./East Rowan) followed Dowdy’s hit with a laser right at Furman second baseman Will Owens. Owens could not haul the hot shot but the ball was hit so hard that he had time to pick up the dropped line drive and still turn an inning-ending double play.
After getting out of the top of the first relatively unscathed, Furman (28-30) exploded for six hits in the bottom of the frame and plated seven runs to turn the three-run deficit into a 7-3 lead. Appalachian starting pitcher Rob Marcello (Royal Palm Beach, Fla./Royal Palm Beach) lasted just one-third of an inning against the Paladin onslaught, surrendering six runs on four hits with also hitting two batters.
Furman continued to swing the hot bats in the second and third innings, scoring two runs in each frame to extend the advantage to a commanding 11-3. The Mountaineers fell behind 12-3 in the sixth before the teams swapped runs in the seventh to account for the final margin. For the second-straight night, Appalachian surrendered a season high for hits, with the Paladins banging out 17. Four different Furman batters had at least three hits. FU’s 13 runs also tied the most that the Mountaineers have allowed all season.
Overshadowed by the Paladins’ offensive fireworks was the performance turned in on the mound by FU freshman Elliott Warford. Warford, who served as Furman’s closer for much of the season, worked eight innings and allowed just one unearned run on five hits after the shaky first. He threw 128 pitches, more than 50 over his previous career high. Callaway and Tewell led Appalachian with two hits and two RBI apiece.
Photo Courtesy: Tyler Tewell, ASU Athletics