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Mountaineers edged out by Southern Miss, 7-5

By Matt Present. MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A record-breaking season for App State Baseball concluded with a remarkable run at the Sun Belt Championship tournament, as the Mountaineers posted back-to-back victories against NCAA bubble teams before falling, 7-5, against nationally ranked No. 25 Southern Miss in Saturday’s semifinal round.

With several team and individual milestones achieved along the way, App State became the only Sun Belt team to prevail at least once in each of the last four tournaments. It finished the season 33-21-1 while repeating as a semifinalist in one of the nation’s toughest Division I conferences.

Banks tolley’s 26th home run of the season — a 3-run shot — gave app state a 5-2 lead in the second inning.

Eerily similar to last year’s performance in the double-elimination event, the Mountaineers bounced back from a heartbreaking loss on Day 1 (Troy pulled out a 6-5 victory) to beat a rival in dramatic fashion (Drew Holderbach hit a three-run homer to break a late tie in a 6-3 win against Coastal Carolina) and then set up a first matchup of the season against Southern Miss by eliminating Troy on the strength of an explosive, chaotic inning (App State won 10-6 after breaking a 3-3 tie with a seven-run seventh that included six hits and four Trojan errors).

App State needed to beat Southern Miss two times Saturday to advance to Sunday’s championship round, but the Eagles (40-18) moved on by producing a crooked number in a fifth-inning rally that occurred between a pair of lengthy weather delays.

Banks Tolley’s 26th homer of the season, a three-run shot in the bottom of the second inning, gave App State a 5-2 lead. After a delay of nearly three hours with play stopped in the top of the third inning, and right before another interruption in the bottom of the fifth inning halted play for more than five hours, Southern Miss jumped ahead for good with a five-run top of the fifth.

A game that had begun at 9 a.m. CT time resumed at 7:35 p.m. CT with App State behind 7-5, and reliever Jake Beaty kept the Mountaineers within striking distance by retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced over three near-perfect innings. The first two Southern Miss batters in the top of the ninth reached against Zach Lewis, but he got a double-play ball to short and then stranded a runner at third with a strikeout.

CJ Boyd reached on a throwing error from third to open the bottom of the ninth, and he moved to second on a one-out single from Xavier Moronta on a 1-2 count. With two away and runners at the corners, including pinch-runner Grey LaSpaluto at first, Hunter Wilder drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases, but a strikeout from closer Colby Allen ended the game.

Weather delays for lightning and rain made for a 12-hour day.

Tolley finished the game with four RBIs, while Austin St. Laurent went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored. Moronta and Holderbach (two runs scored) both reached base four times while going 2-for-3 at the plate.

App State starter Bradley Wilson used a double play and strikeout to work around two singles in a scoreless first, and the Mountaineers quickly jumped ahead 2-0 in their half. Holderbach followed St. Laurent’s leadoff single with a double, and Tolley delivered an RBI groundout before Holderbach scored on Boyd’s double to the right-field corner.

Trey Tujetsch took over on the mound with the bases loaded and nobody out in the second inning. After a wild pitch and walk meant the bases were still loaded with nobody out in a 2-1 game, he limited the damage to two total runs by inducing a 4-6-3 double play and ending the frame with a groundout.

Southern Miss retired the first two App State batters in the bottom of the second, but St. Laurent’s double and Holderbach’s walk set the stage for Tolley, who crushed a 1-2 pitch for a no-doubt homer down the left-field line. App State’s single-season record holder for homers, Tolley ended his lone year as a Mountaineer with the eighth-most homers in the country and the fifth-most in a season by a Sun Belt hitter.

Ranking 11th on App State’s career homers list in just one season, Tolley contributed to a school-record 94 homers in 2024 from the Mountaineers, with Boyd adding 18 as part of a school-record 35 in his career and St. Laurent hitting 14.

Following the first long delay, Tujetsch pitched a scoreless third and put up another zero in the fourth. Three straight singles in the fifth loaded the bases for Southern Miss, triggering a move to Everette Harris.

A two-run double and RBI groundout tied the game before Nick Monistere gave the Eagles a 7-5 lead with a two-run homer to center. Moronta drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the fifth before play was halted by a second weather delay.

In four tournament games, Tolley reached base seven times and totaled six RBIs en route to finishing the season with a .379 average and a school-record 77 RBIs. Moronta went 6-for-14 and reached base eight times in four tournament games.

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