By Matt Present for App State Sports. LAFAYETTE, La. — With the bases loaded in the fifth inning, and Xander Hamilton’s pitch count nearing triple digits, pitching coach Justin Aspegren paid a visit to the mound.
Hamilton (win, 5-1) responded, getting an inning-ending flyout, to keep the Mountaineers in front by a run, as he marched off the mound shouting in excitement. Hamilton returned to the hill to strike out the side in the sixth inning, capping a career-high 13 strikeouts on the night, as the Mountaineers (14-10, 5-2) defeated Louisiana, 3-2, Friday at Russo Park.
Hamilton’s 13 strikeouts were the most in a single-game by an App State pitcher in recorded history (since 2013), while the Mountaineers’ 18 strikeouts as a team came within one of the program record for a game. App State’s 5-2 start to conference play is their best since joining the Sun Belt in 2015.
The Raleigh, N.C. native also struck out the side in the second inning, and struck out all nine hitters in the Louisiana order at least once during his outing. Hamilton allowed just two runs over six innings of work, throwing 115 pitches in the outing.
The bullpen maintained the standard that Hamilton established. Skylar Brooks came on in the seventh inning, and tossed two scoreless frames, striking out two, while allowing just one baserunner.
Freshman Jackson Steensma took over in the ninth, charged with protecting a one-run lead. Steensma wasted no time securing his fourth save of the season, as he struck out all three batters he faced to polish off the victory.
App State opened the scoring in the first inning with back-to-back singles from Xavier Moronta and Luke Drumheller. Hayden Cross then plated Moronta on an RBI groundout to give the Mountaineers a 1-0 advantage. Moronta also doubled and walked, reaching base three times in the contest.
After Louisiana answered with a run in the home half of the first, App State went back in front in the third inning when they loaded the bases and forced in a pair of runs on a walk and a hit by pitch.
The middle game of the series is set for 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, with App State righty Bradley Wilson facing off with fellow right-hander Jackson Nezuh for Louisiana. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.