By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — App State third baseman Andrew Terrell will not soon forget his last at-bat in the last home baseball game of his college career in Smith Stadium: a walk-off, grand slam home run on Mother’s Day, with his mother and grandmother in the stands, powering the Mountaineers to a dominating, 16-4 win and weekend series sweep over the Red Wolves of Arkansas State.
The end-of-game drama all but overshadowed C.J. Boyd’s career day at the plate. The sophomore from Lewisville, N.C. (Reagan High School) got four hits in five at-bats, including two home runs, a double, four runs scored and four RBIs.
Giving up consecutive home runs and a double in the first inning may not have been the Sunday start that Mountaineer starting pitcher Caleb Cross (5-3) preferred, but the junior righthander settled down and kept the Red Wolves at bay, giving up just those two, first inning runs and only three more hits across six innings’ on the mound.
Notably, led by Boyd’s hot bat, Cross got error-free defensive help and solid offensive production from his fellow Mountaineers. They took advantage of miscues by Arkansas State, whose pitchers had a hard time getting the ball across the 14 inches of hard rubber called, “home plate.” The Red Wolves pitchers issued 10 walks, hit two batters, and hurled three wild pitches in the seven inning, abbreviated affair that was stopped by run-rule.
In the bottom half of the first inning, down 2-0, Boyd got things started with a leadoff home run over the left field fence to cut the deficit in half. In the second inning, he knocked in another run with a 1-out double to the left centerfield fence, scoring Jonathan Xuereb and sending Terrell to third.
With runners on second and third, Xavier Moronta rapped a single to right, scoring Terrell, with Boyd stopping at third base. He scored the third run of the inning a few moments later on a wild pitch by Arkansas State starter, Tyler Jeans (2-5).
It wasn’t until the bottom of the 4th inning that the Mountaineers struck again, and it was Boyd again who got things started with a 2-run shot over the left field fence. Consecutive singles by Luke Drumheller and Alex Reed were followed by a full count walk to App State power hitter, Golston Gillespie, loading the bases.
The next batter, right fielder Dylan Rogers, didn’t waste any time by ripping a double to the gap in right center. The ball made it all the way to the fence before being retrieved by a Red Wolves outfielder. The hit tallied two more runs for the Mountaineers, with Reed and Drumheller crossing the plate easily.
Arkansas State replaced starting pitcher Jeans with Michael Finan, who stopped the bleeding and got the final two outs of the inning. The damage had been done, though, with the Mountaineers sporting a convincing, 8-2 lead.
Finan only gave up one hit and no runs in his 2.2 innings of work, but he showed signs of fatigue and control problems when he gave up a double down the right field line and hit another batter, Braxton Church, in the 6th inning. It was enough for A-State head coach Tommy Raffo to make pitching change heading into the decisive 7th.
The Red Wolves used four pitchers in the seventh inning, none of whom seemed to have control of their pitches. Arkansas State reliever Bryson Schares started the inning and showed promise, getting the first two outs of the inning, but then the wheels started coming off for the Red Wolves. Boyd had singled through the left side earlier, between those first two outs, but when a pickoff attempt went flying down the right field line, the Mountaineer centerfielder advanced all the way to third base, then scored on another one of those wild pitches.
Alex Reed followed with a ground rule double to the gap between center and right, the ball bouncing over the fence and out of play.
Schares faced just five Mountaineer batters before being yanked in favor of Austin Brock. The senior lefty faced just two batters, allowing two runs on no hits (two walks) before Raffo went to his bullpen again, this time bringing on a towering (6-7) junior, James McCormick. The junior college transfer and former high school MVP of the Arkansas state tournament didn’t fare any better, facing just two Mountaineers. He faced only two batters, walking one and hitting another, forcing in two runs on no hits. It prompted Raffo to call on his fourth pitcher of the inning, Grayson Becker, who faced only one batter. He got his only pitch over the plate, but Terrell took advantage, smashing it over the left centerfield fence for the grand slam finale.
Having fun with the moment, after the game Terrell told High Country Sports about the bases-loaded situation he found himself in, “I didn’t want to stay here any longer, so I was trying to walk it off, for sure. I had a date with my mother and had to treat her right.”
Terrell added, “This was just an awesome weekend, Senior Weekend. To have my final at-bat in this stadium, my first grand slam home run, it was pretty cool.”
Boyd was succinct in talking about his performance at the plate.
“Just keeping things slow, see the ball and hit it hard wherever you can,” said Boyd. “As a team, we are all about protecting the ‘middle 14’ (over home plate).
“Whenever we get down…We have so much trust in our pitching staff,” said Boyd, “and with our offense, you see what we can do. We put up double digits in almost every single game.”
Mountaineer head coach Kermit Smith was complimentary of starting pitcher Caleb Cross, who gave up the early runs but then buckled down and shut out the Red Wolves for the next five innings.
“It speaks more to Caleb’s competitiveness and his character,” said Smith. “It says a lot about our team, too. C.J. (Boyd) comes out a gets a home run to settle things down and cut the deficit. The we took the lead in the next inning. You keep competing like that and it helped Caleb settle down, too.”
The Red Wolves scored a couple of runs in the top of the seventh inning, loaded the bases, and had the tying run on deck when redshirt sophomore Skylar Brooks (Wilkesboro/Wilkes Central HS) was brought to the mound as the stopper, striking out the final two Red Wolves’ batters.
“Skylar did a fantastic job coming in, in that situation,” said Smith. “It was his first outing since an earlier hamstring injury, so that brought a lot of energy, too. As we approach tournament time, it is all a good shot in the arm.
“For Andrew, that walk-off home run was pretty special. It was his last at-bat here in this stadium and he is always going to remember it as a grand slam home run. That is pretty dang special and a lot of people can’t say that,” said Smith.
With the weekend wins, App State (15-11 SBC, 26-21 overall) climbs into the No. 5 spot in the Sun Belt Conference standings, behind Southern Miss (on a 13-win streak) and Coastal Carolina sharing the No. 1 position, with Louisiana and Troy holding down the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, respectively.
A final regular season road trip to Troy next week looms large for the Mountaineers. They take on the Trojans, May 18-19-20. At least two Mountaineer wins would push App State past Troy and into the No. 4 spot in the SBC standings, improving their seeding for the SBC conference tournament, May 23-28, in Montgomery, Ala.
OTHER SUN BELT GAMES ON MAY 14
- Coastal Carolina 16, @South Alabama 10
- Troy 4, @Marshall 2
- Old Dominion 8, @James Madison 5
- @Georgia State 16, Georgia Southern 5
- @Louisiana 8, Texas State 3
- Southern Miss 6, ULM 2