After getting just five hits in yesterday's 2-1 defeat of Samford, fifth-seeded Appalachian State University baseball’s bats came alive for 14 hits, while scoring 15 runs in a 15-4 rout of top-seeded Western Carolina in an elimination game of the Southern Conference Tournament on Friday at Fluor Field.
With the victory, the Mountaineers eliminate the Catamounts and advance to take on The Citadel on Saturday for a chance to move closer to the SoCon Championship. Game time for the tournament rematch is set for 10 a.m. If the Apps were to capture a victory, Appalachian and the Bulldogs will play once again for a winner-take-all spot in the championship.
Highlighting the App State lineup was freshman Dillon Dobson who set a new career-high for hits in a game, finishing 4-for-4 with two RBI and four runs scored. Dobson was one of four Mountaineers will multi-hits for the afternoon, including William Head’s 3-for-4 day. Head drove in three runs, tying for the most with Preston Troutman and Jaylin Davis. Head and Dobson are both 5-for-11 (.455) in the tournament.
Hector Crespo and Michael Pierson combined for four hits, two RBI and three runs scored, while Noah Holmes finished 1-for-3, drawing three walks for the afternoon. Will Callaway saw his prolific hitting streak come to an end, finishing 0-for-4 for the game. Callaway entered the game with a 27-game hitting streak, which tied Rand Smith’s school record, set in 2009.
“It’s in their hands," said ASU coach Billy Jones. "I think any time you lose game one in the tournament, it makes it tough the rest of the way. We came out today and played free. I’m sure not too many people gave us a chance with that club because they are a very offensive club, but our guys answered the bell. I am very happy for them and proud of them. they are playing the way they can”
The Mountaineers jumped out quickly, recording two runs in the second inning, four in the third inning, five in the fourth inning, two in the fifth and held a 13-3 lead after five innings of play. Within those five innings of work, the Apps pounded out 10 hits, including two multi-base hits.
Appalachian pitchers shined as bright as the hitters, as left-hander Chad Farmer earned his 11th start of the season, but lasted just two innings after running into trouble in the third. Farmer gave way to senior Tyler Moore, whose long relief kept WCU’s batters, who currently lead the nation in home runs (71), in check and without a homer. Moore, who earned his first win of the season, gave up just one earned run on seven hits in seven innings of work, highlighted by pitching out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning.
“It was incredible, we knew we were going to be in a dog fight," said Jones said. "Those guys can really hit over there. Tyler Moore did an unbelievable job just coming in and keeping it where it was. We were fortunate for some balls to fall for us and able to maintain the lead. He wanted the ball the whole game; he wasn’t going to come out.”
Leadoff batter Aaron Attaway paced the Catamounts with three hits on the afternoon, but was unable to add on to his team-leading 68 runs scored on the year.
App State looks to avenge Wednesday's loss to The Citadel and and a four-game losing streak in the series. The Bulldogs swept the regular season series in Charleston before picking up an opening-round win two days ago.
“It’s always tough, if we are fortunate enough to win game one, we have to turn around and play again," Jones said. "Our pitching is set up ok, we’re a little bit thin as far as the bullpen, but the next guy who gets the ball will have to step up for the team.”
Coverage begins at 9:40 a.m. on AM 1450, WATA. If the Mountaineers win, they will play the Bulldogs at 5 p.m. Saturday night in an elimination game. The finals will be on Sunday. ASU hasn't won the SoCon Tournament since 1984.
NOTES: Appalachian set a new program record with Friday's win, notching its seventh-straight season of at least 30 wins … Appalachian advances to the semifinals for the first time since making back-to-back appearances in 2010 and 2011 … With the win, Appalachian moves to 4-10 against WCU, the most common tournament opponent for the Mountaineers, in SoCon Tournament play … Holmes has now reached base safely in 15-straight games … Head has now reached base safely in 13-straight games … Crespo recorded his 101st stolen base of his career and is two behind David Beckley (The Citadel) and Chris Walker (Georgia Southern) for fourth all-time in SoCon history … Head recorded his team-leading 27th stolen base of the season and is two swipes away from tying Will Shellman (1993) for fourth all-time in program history … Despite being a first-team all-SoCon selection, WCU closer Preston Hatcher has seven appearances against App State and has given up 15 earned runs in 8.1 innings pitched, tallying a 16.27 ERA … Appalachian has kept Western Carolina’s highly powered offense off balance, outscoring the Catamounts 23-4 in the last 11 innings.
Photo Courtesy: Tyler Moore, ASU Athletics