App State Caps Senior Day With Win Over 16th-Ranked Chanticleers

BOONE, N.C. — Luke Watts fielded the comebacker to the mound, ran toward first base and flipped the ball to Conner Leonard for the final out.

 The classmates embraced as the rest of Appalachian State's team charged away from the home dugout to join them.
Appalachian State ended a long Senior Day in style, capping head coach Kermit Smith's second season with an 11-7 victory against 16th-ranked league champion Coastal Carolina.
It was the last game appearance at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium for Leonard, Watts, Tristan Helms, Reed Howell, Travis Holden, Robert Langdon and Drake Zupcic. The exchange between Watts, whose nine saves this year rank fifth in App State's single-season history, and Leonard, who made 175 starts at first base in 195 career games, provided a fitting conclusion.

The Mountaineers (18-36, 9-21 Sun Belt) and Chanticleers (38-17, 23-7) played 21 innings Saturday, as Coastal Carolina finished off a 10-4 victory in Game 1 of the series and won 10-5 in Game 2 before falling to App State in the finale.

Appalachian trailed 3-0 in Game 3 before recording its highest-scoring inning of the season with a six-run fourth that included seven walks and two hit batters. Leading 7-5 in the seventh inning, the Mountaineers extended their advantage thanks to Joel McDaniel's solo homer, CJ Brown's sacrifice fly to score Drew Beck and Alex Leshock's two-run double. Bailey Welch followed Langdon home and beat the throw to the plate to score all the way from first.

After starting pitcher Will Sprinkle exited the game with a fifth-inning lead and Andrew Papp (1-0) threw scoreless sixth and seventh innings en route to his first App State win, Watts retired all five batters he faced in lowering his senior-year ERA to 2.29 in 30 appearances. He led the league with 27 games finished.
Leonard went 3-for-8 with four RBIs in his last two games, while Langdon started the final two games at second base, had an RBI single in Game 2 of the series and helped turn an inning-ending double play to preserve a 7-5 lead after Coastal Carolina loaded the bases in the seventh inning.
Helms and Howell came out of the bullpen to record ninth-inning strikeouts in the series opener, which followed a graduation ceremony for the seven seniors, and Holden pitched the eighth inning of Game 2. That game ended with a crowd-pleasing at-bat for Zupcic, a 2017 starter who entered the lineup for the first time in two months. An arm injury limited him to 13 at-bats, most of them as a pinch-hitter, before he was shut down a month into the season.

With its first home victory against a top-20 opponent in recent history, App State was able to send its seniors out with a memorable win.



2018 Sun Belt Baseball Championship Bracket Announced

NEW ORLEANS – The seeds and matchups for this week's 2018 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship, hosted at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park on the campus of the University of Louisiana, have been determined following the conclusion of the conference's regular season on Saturday evening.

The tournament begins on Tuesday, May 22, and ends with the championship game on Sunday, May 27. All games of the tournament will be available on ESPN+ and the WatchESPN app. The tournament format combines single and double-elimination play. Two single-elimination first round games on Tuesdayprecede the start of double-elimination play between the remaining eight teams. The top ten teams, based on conference winning percentage will compete for the tournament title.

The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina (38-17, 23-7) earned the top seed after they defeated Appalachian State, 2-1, over the weekend to capture their second consecutive East division crown. Since April 24, the Chanticleers are 10-3, winning seven of their last eight games.

With the new tournament format continuing for 2018 – single-elimination combined with double-elimination – the Chants will face the lowest remaining seed from Tuesday’s first round matchups on Wednesday, May 23, at 12:30 p.m. (CT).

Louisiana won the West division with its sweep of ULM. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 33-23 overall and 18-12 in league play. The Ragin’ Cajuns will play the highest remaining seed from Tuesday’s first round on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (CT). As tournament host, Louisiana reserved the right to choose the playing time of its first round game only and the host chose the 7:30 time slot.

Troy earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament and will take on No. 6 Texas State on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. (CT). This will be the first meeting of the season between the Trojans (38-18, 19-11) and the Bobcats (28-26-1, 16-14). Troy closed out the regular season with a 2-1 series win over South Alabama. Texas State swept UTA, its first sweep of the Mavericks since 2007.

South Alabama (30-23, 18-11) topped Troy in the regular season finale on Saturday and earned the tournament’s fourth seed. USA will face No. 5 Georgia Southern (29-24, 18-11) in Wednesday’s first game at 9:00 a.m. (CT).

The tournament begins on Tuesday with single-elimination games between No. 7 Little Rock (27-26, 15-14) and No. 10 Georgia State (26-28, 10-19) at 3:00 p.m. (CT). In Tuesday night’s finale, No. 8 UTA (21-33, 11-19) takes on No. 9 Arkansas State (20-31, 11-19) at 6:30 p.m. (CT).

The Sun Belt champion will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

2018 Baseball Championship Schedule

Tuesday, May 22 (start of single-elimination)
Game 1: 3:00 p.m. (ESPN+) - No. 7 Little Rock vs. No. 10 Georgia State
Game 2: 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - No. 8 UTA vs. No. 9 Arkansas State

Wednesday, May 23 (start of double-elimination)
Game 3: 9:00 a.m. (ESPN+) - No. 4 South Alabama vs. No. 5 Georgia Southern
Game 4: 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - No. 1 Coastal Carolina vs. 1st Round Winner (Low Seed)
Game 5: 4:00 p.m. (ESPN+) - No. 3 Troy vs. No. 6 Texas State
Game 6: 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - No. 2 Louisiana vs. 1st Round Winner (High Seed)

Thursday, May 24
Game 7: 9:00 a.m. (ESPN+) - Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4
Game 8: 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6
Game 9: 4:00 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
Game 10: 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

Friday, May 25
Game 11: 3:00 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 9
Game 12: 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 10

Saturday, May 26
Game 13: 9:00 a.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 11
Game 14: 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 12
*Game 15: 4:00 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 13 vs. Loser Game 13 (if necessary)
#Game 16: 7:30 p.m. ^ (ESPN+) - Winner Game 14 vs. Loser Game 14 (if necessary)

Sunday, May 27 (Championship Game)
Championship: 1:00 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner take all

* Game 15 is necessary if the winner of Game 11 also wins Game 13.
# Game 16 is necessary if the winner of Game 12 also wins Game 14.
^ If Game 15 is not necessary and Game 16 is necessary, Game 16 shall begin 75 minutes after the conclusion of Game 14.

All times are Central and Subject to Change

2018 Baseball Championship seeds and Sun Belt records

1. Coastal Carolina (38-17, 23-7 Sun Belt)
2. Louisiana (33-23, 18-12 Sun Belt)
3. Troy (38-18, 19-11 Sun Belt)
4. South Alabama (30-23, 18-11 Sun Belt) *
5. Georgia Southern (29-24, 18-11 Sun Belt) *
6. Texas State (28-26-1, 16-14 Sun Belt)
7. Little Rock (27-26, 15-14 Sun Belt)
8. UTA (21-33, 11-19 Sun Belt) **
9. Arkansas State (20-31, 11-19 Sun Belt) **
10. Georgia State (26-28, 10-19 Sun Belt)

* - Georgia Southern and South Alabama finished the regular season with identical 18-11 conference records. USA earned the No. 4 seed based on its series win, head-to-head, over Georgia Southern. USA claimed that series 3-0.

** - UTA and Arkansas State finished the regular season with identical 11-19 conference records. UTA earned the No. 8 seed based on its series win, head-to-head, over Arkansas State. UTA claimed that series 2-1.



Conine Homers Twice, Duke Matches Wins Record

ATLANTA – Junior Griffin Conine homered twice to help No. 10 Duke defeat Georgia Tech 12-5 in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium. With the win, the Blue Devils matched the program record for victories in a season (39) set in 1993 and 1996. 

Conine’s first longball surpassed the batter’s eye in straightaway center in the second before he lifted a fourth-inning shot to right. Conine reached base in all five of his plate appearances, scored four runs and knocked in five RBI. With his performance today, Conine became the second Blue Devil in the past 20 years to belt 15 or more home runs in a season and the first since Nate Freiman in 2009.

Duke (39-14, 18-11 ACC) did the bulk of the damage with two outs, registering nine of its 14 hits with two away. Joey Loperfido started it off with a two-out, two-run single in the first before Conine blasted the first of his two home runs with two gone in the second. Five-straight Blue Devils also reached with two outs in the sixth, leading to a three-run frame.

Every Blue Devil in the starting lineup had at least one hit, led by Zack Kone’s 3-for-5 performance. Jimmy Herrondouble and walked, extending his current on base streak to 33 games.

Duke scored five runs the first two frames, but in similar fashion to the first two games of the series, Georgia Tech put together a third-inning rally. The Yellow Jackets loaded the bases with nobody out before freshman Bryce Jarvis took over on the mound with one away. Jarvis proceeded to strike out Joey Bart then got a fielder’s choice to end the threat.

Jarvis (4-1) would work 2.2 innings in relief to earn the win. He allowed one run on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

After escaping the third with minimal damage, Kone looped an RBI single to right before Conine drove a second ball over the fence as part of a three-run fourth. Duke added three runs in the sixth as well and plated a final tally in the eighth.

Brant Hurter (5-4) suffered the loss after yielding five runs on five hits over 2.0 innings.

Duke enters the 2018 ACC Championship, which runs May 22-27 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, as the No. 4 seed. The ACC is set to release the complete tournament schedule Sunday morning.