April 16, 2012. STATESBORO, Ga. — Appalachian State University baseball nearly battled all the way back from a late five-run deficit but a bit of bad luck in the first inning proved to be the difference in the Mountaineers’ 7-6 loss at Georgia Southern on Sunday afternoon at J.I. Clements Stadium.
With the setback, No. 27 Appalachian (25-9, 10-5 SoCon) lost the three-game Southern Conference series at Georgia Southern (22-16, 10-8 SoCon), two games to one. The series loss dropped ASU into a four-way tie for first-place in the SoCon standings with College of Charleston (25-12, 14-7 SoCon), Elon (21-17, 12-6 SoCon) and Western Carolina (25-11, 10-5 SoCon).
The Mountaineers trailed 7-2 going into the eighth inning but fell inches short of climbing all the way out of the five-run hole. Daniel Kassouf started the rally with a three-run home run — his SoCon-leading 13th blast of the season — in the top of the eighth that cut the deficit to 7-5.
It looked like Appalachian would go down quietly in the ninth when GSU closer Kyle Rowe easily retired the first two batters of the frame. The Mountaineers were down to their final strike when pinch-hitter Preston Troutman beat out an infield single to shortstop on a 2-2 pitch to keep the Apps alive.
Hector Crespo followed with a single up the middle that put the tying run on base for Tyler Zupcic, who yanked an RBI double down the left field line that made it 7-6. Zupcic’s double brought Will Callaway to the plate with the tying run just 90 feet away and the go-ahead run in scoring position. Callaway fouled off three-straight pitches from Rowe before roping a sinking line drive into center field. Georgia Southern center fielder Scooter Williams appeared to be fooled by the sinking liner and momentarily froze before going to his knees to catch the ball just before it dropped in for a go-ahead single. The Clements Stadium crowd of 1,251 collectively exhaled as the Eagles’ second big break of the afternoon ended the wild ballgame.
Despite the late rally, for all intents and purposes, Sunday’s contest was decided in the bottom of the first inning. After Williams drew a leadoff walk, GSU called for a hit-and-run with Williams breaking for second base on a 1-2 pitch to Michael Burruss. Burruss lined the pitch back up the middle, right at Callaway, who was covering second on the steal attempt. However, the Mountaineer shortstop couldn’t handle the line drive while moving towards the bag and the ball caromed off his glove and into center field, giving the Eagles runners on first and third with no outs instead of none on with two away.
ASU starter Rob Marcello followed the tough-luck hit by striking out Eric Phillips but hung a breaking ball to GSU cleanup hitter Chase Griffin, who drilled it midway up the batter’s eye in straightaway center field for a three-run homer that put the Mountaineers in a 3-0 hole.
Appalachian never pulled even after the misfortune in the first. The Apps got within a run at 3-2 in the top of the fourth when they strung together three-straight two-out hits, capped by back-to-back RBI doubles from Kassouf and Tyler Tewell, but GSU scored once in the sixth and three times in the seventh to stretch the advantage to 7-2.
Kassouf led the way for the Mountaineers, going 2-for-4 with a double, home run, two runs scored and four RBI. Crespo also had two hits for ASU.
Marcello settled in to retire 14 of the final 20 batters he faced after Griffin’s home run in the first but suffered the loss to fall to 4-3 on the campaign.
After a 1-3 road trip, Appalachian looks to rebound when it returns to the friendly confines of Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium for a six-game homestand. The stint begins with the opener of a two-game mid-week series versus Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Smith Stadium.
Game Two: Eagles rout Apps, 13-3
Georgia Southern took advantage of four Appalachian State errors and evened the teams’ three-game Southern Conference series with a 13-3 win on Saturday evening at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Even with two of their four errors coming in the first three innings, the Mountaineers trailed just 4-2 after four-and-a-half stanzas. However, the wheels came off for the Apps in the bottom of the fifth, as Georgia Southern (21-16, 9-8 SoCon) sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on five hits to take a commanding 11-2 lead. The Eagles hit just two balls out of the infield during the fateful fifth but benefitted from three infield hits, a defensive miscue on a sacrifice bunt and a two-run error to plate their seven runs, the most allowed by Appalachian in a single frame this season.
ASU starter Seth Grant, who had won each of his last six starts, allowed season highs for hits (9), runs (10) and earned runs (6) to snap the winning streak and fall to 6-2 on the campaign. Georgia Southern’s 13 runs and 15 hits overall were also the most allowed by Appalachian as a team this year.
The Mountaineers banged out 10 hits but stranded eight runners on base. Hector Crespo paced the 10-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and run scored.
Game One: Arrowood Outduels Beck in Mountaineers’ 5-1 Win
Ryan Arrowood outpitched likely first-round Major League Baseball draft pick Chris Beck to lead 27th-ranked Appalachian State University baseball to a 5-1 win over Georgia Southern in a Southern Conference series opener on Friday evening at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Arrowood limited Georgia Southern to one run on six hits while striking out seven over seven innings and moved to 6-0 on the season.
Offensively, Appalachian (25-7, 10-3 SoCon) jumped on Beck early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning and another in the third to grab what proved to be an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
As has become commonplace for ASU, the Mountaineers did the lion’s share of their damage with two outs. With two away in the first, Jeremy Dowdy drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in the game’s first run and Trey Holmes followed with what proved to be the difference in the game, a two-run single that made it 3-0.
Daniel Kassouf got in the act in the third when he blasted a two-out offering from Beck off the left-field foul pole for a line-drive solo home run. Kassouf’s SoCon-high-tying 12th blast of the season gave the Apps a commanding 4-0 lead.
Georgia Southern pulled within 4-1 by getting the only run it would manage against Arrowood in the bottom of the third but following Eric Phillips’ RBI bunt single, ASU’s ace allowed only three singles to the final 17 batters he faced.
The score remained 4-1 until Appalachian added an insurance run on an RBI single by Will Callaway in the ninth. On the play, Hector Crespo made a spectacular slide around a tag attempt at the plate to score the run and Georgia Southern head coach Rodney Hennon was subsequently ejected for arguing the call. Due to the ejection, Hennon was prohibited from coaching the Eagles on Saturday.
In the bottom of the ninth, Nathan Hyatt struck out all four batters he faced (the first victim reached base when Hyatt’s wicked slider skipped to the backstop following the third strike) to close out the win and snap Georgia Southern’s seven-game winning streak.