By David Rogers. MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Masterful pitching and timely hitting ruled the day at Riverwalk Stadium on the morning of May 27, with No. 6 seeded Appalachian State upsetting the previously unbeaten (in the Sun Belt tournament) No. 2 seed, Southern Miss, 4-2.
Come tournament time and a team’s extended survival in the double elimination format, pitching management becomes all important. Mountaineer head coach Kermit Smith and pitching coach Justin Aspegren seemed to know exactly how far their stable of hurlers could each go without overworking them and getting into trouble against the Golden Eagles’ hot bats.
Combined, four Mountaineer pitchers gave up just two runs on five hits and struck out seven. The Golden Eagles managed just two extra base hits, a double and a home run in the top of the 3rd inning to account for their only runs scored in the game. Grey LaSpaluto (2-2), the first to relieve starter Seth Whitley, was credited with the win. The big (6-4, 256 lbs.) freshman righthander, Jackson Steensma picked up his seventh save of the year.
Meanwhile, C.J. Boyd extended his hitting streak to 18 games, rapping out three hits in five at-bats, including a double and a pair of singles. Xavier Moronta went 2-4, including a double into the right field corner in the third inning, after which he scored a run on a single to right by Hayden Cross. Moronta also picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Andrew Terrell tagging up from third base in the 4th inning.
App State added another couple of runs in the bottom of the 6th inning. Boyd rapped a bases loaded single through middle to center, scoring Alex Reed, who had led off the inning with a single. Still with the bases loaded, Luke Drumheller lofted another sacrifice fly to center, allowing Hunter Wilder to tag up and score from third.
“We’re going to have a dogfight this afternoon,” said App State head coach Kermit Smith in his post-game press conference about the semifinals elimination game vs. Southern Miss later in the day. “Southern Miss has a great baseball program. I have a ton of respect for those guys, how they play, and their physicality. I am tremendously proud of our guys today, too (by forcing the elimination game with the morning’s win).”
Before the game, Appalachian State sported a No. 89 RPI ranking in NCAA Division I baseball, out of 305 ranked programs, according to the NCAA. The Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina was at No. 12, Southern Miss No. 21, and Troy No. 39.
With the win, Appalachian State and Southern Miss will square off again on Saturday afternoon (May 27) to determine which team advances to the championship final. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, and will be broadcast live on ESPN+. The winner will face the survivor of the No. 4 Louisiana vs. No. 1 Coastal Carolina matchup in the other half of the semifinals.
KEY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES
- APP – Xavier Moronta: 2-3, 1 run scored, 1 RBI, 2B, SacFly
- APP – C J Boyd: 3-5, 1 RBI, 2B
- APP – Hayden Cross: 2-4, 1 RBI
- APP – Luke Drumheller: 0-3, SacFly
- APP – Skylar Brooks: 1.2 innings pitched, 3 strikeouts, no runs on 1 hit
- APP – Jackson Steensma: 1 inning, 1 strikeout in 3 batters faced to get the save
- TROY – Christopher Sargent: 3-4, 2B
- TROY – Dustin Dickerson: 1-4, 1 run scored, 1 RBI, HR