Special Report to Blowing Rock News from App State Sports. By Mike Flynn. April 3, 2016. BOONE, N.C. — Matt Vernon’s (Advance, N.C./Davie County) RBI double with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Appalachian State University baseball its second-straight 8-7 walkoff win over Little Rock on Sunday afternoon at Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium.
With its back-to-back walkoff victories, Appalachian State (8-20, 3-9 Sun Belt) clinched its first Sun Belt Conference victory of the season, two games to one.
Facing a full count with pinch-runner Jason Curtis (Waxhaw, N.C./Marvin Ridge) on first base, Vernon ripped a line drive off into the left center field gap off of Little Rock’s eighth pitcher of the ballgame, Cody McGill. The ball split the Trojans’ left and center fielders and skipped all the way to the wall, allowing the speedy Curtis to easily score the winning run all the way from first and setting off the Mountaineers’ second raucous on-field celebration in less than 24 hours.
The two teams combined for 10 runs over the final two innings.
Vernon’s game-winner capped a wild contest that saw the teams combine for 10 runs over the final two innings.
App State took a 3-2 lead into the top of the eighth inning but Little Rock scored two runs on a wild pitch and a two-out RBI single by Matt McDowell to grab a 4-3 advantage.
The Trojans’ advantage was short-lived, however, as the Mountaineers answered with four runs in the bottom of the eighth to retake a 7-4 lead. Like he did in the ninth, Vernon provided the big hit in the eighth with a two-run single. Will Herman (Dunwoody, Ga./St. Pius X Catholic) scored on a wild pitch and Brian Bauk (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury) hit his second sacrifice fly of the game to account for the Mountaineers’ other runs in the eighth.
Bauk, Appalachian’s closer who was called on to get the Mountaineers out of the jam in the eighth inning, returned to the mound for the ninth and quickly found himself in another precarious situation. He walked the leadoff hitter and, two batters later, gave up a line-drive single off his foot to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of the nation’s leading hitter, Little Rock’s Ryan Scott, with only one out. However, Bauk struck out Scott on a 3-2 pitch for the second out of the inning.
That brought Little Rock’s Dalton Thomas, a near .400 hitter in his own right, to bat with two outs. On a 1-1 pitch, Bauk left a fastball over the heart of the plate and Thomas crushed it over the left field wall for a game-tying homer. Following the homer, Bauk got cleanup hitter Nik Gifford to ground out to first base but the game went to the bottom of the ninth knotted at 7-7.
The win gave the Mountaineers their first SERIES win in the Sun Belt Conference this season.
The Mountaineers’ No. 9 hitter Chandler Seagle (New Bern, N.C./New Bern) led off the bottom of the ninth by drawing a four-pitch walk from McGill. Curtis came on to pinch-run for Seagle and scored on Vernon’s walkoff double two batters later.
The game was eerily similar to Saturday’s 8-7 App State victory in that both contests ended with walkoff hits, featured the same final score and had the same pitchers of record — Bauk (2-0) and McGill (0-3).
The entire weekend was also nearly a facsimile of last season’s first-ever series between the two clubs in Little Rock. The Trojans won all three of those contests in walkoff fashion, meaning that five of the six games played all-time by App State and Little Rock have ended with walkoff hits.
Vernon finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored to lead the Mountaineers’ nine-hit attack on Sunday. Conner Leonard (Winston-Salem, N.C./Parkland) and Parker Henderson (Harrisburg, N.C./Hickory Ridge) both went 2-for-3 while Bauk finished 1-for-2 with a double, two sac flies, a walk and two RBI at the plate.
Winners of three of their last four and four of their last six games, Appalachian State returns to action on Tuesday with a neutral-site game versus Campbell in Holly Springs, N.C. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at the brand new North Main Athletic Complex (home of the Coastal Plain League’s Holly Springs Salamanders).