Deacons Are Steel Demons In The 9th, Mountaineers Drop 5-4 Nailbiter

Deacons Are Steel Demons In The 9th, Mountaineers Drop 5-4 Nailbiter
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By David Rogers. March 28, 2017. BOONE, NC — Mountaineer relief pitcher Matt Brill only gave up one hit in an inning’s worth of work on Tuesday, but it was a big one.

Blowing Rock News coverage of App State Sports is made possible by a sponsorship from AppOrtho, a member of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System

Wake Forest redshirt sophomore shortstop Bruce Steel broke open a 4-4 tie with a blast over the left field fence for a winning home run in the top of the 9th.  Appalachian State’s Conner Leonard, who had homered to center in the 5th, punched a two-out single to center in the bottom half of the inning to give the 955 fans at Smith Field hope for a comeback, but the Mountaineers could not move him around, giving Wake Forest the win, 5-4.

Storm clouds in the distance on a blustery High Country night were a fitting backdrop as the Mountaineers’ ace starting pitcher Bobby Hampton gave up a first inning home run to the Demon Deacons’ sophomore second baseman Jake Mueller in the top of the first. But the Apps immediately responded, storming back in the bottom of the first for two runs of their own thanks to senior 2B Matt Vernon’s 1-run double down the right field line. That rifle shot came after some heady base-running by freshman 3B Calev Grubbs, who after leading off with a single advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by SS Jason Curtis, then took third on a wild pitch. Grubbs scored on Vernon’s 2-bagger, then cleanup batter and LF Tyler Stroup singled to right, scoring Vernon from second. The throw to the plate by the Deacons’ junior rightfielder Keegan Maronport was on target, but Vernon’s headfirst slide allowed him to slip by Wake Forest catcher Logan Harvey’s tag.

Although Hampton gave up another home run in the second inning to Maronpot, the sophomore righthander from Pikeville, NC and his Wake Forest counterpart, a big 6-3 freshman hurler from Middletown, Delaware in Colin Peluse, settled into a pitcher’s duel with the game tied, 2-2.  That was the way things stood until Leonard’s solo dinger in the bottom of the 5th to put the Mountaineers ahead, 3-2.

The Deacons’ responded in the top of the 6th with a 2-run double to left by senior catcher Ben Breazeale, but the Mountaineers countered with “small ball” to manufacture a run of their own to tie the game at 4-4 when CF Drake Zupcic executed a perfectly place sacrifice bunt to score shortstop Jason Curtis from third.

Vernon (2-4 with 1 RBI and 1 run), Stroup (2-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB), and Leonard (2-4, 1 run, 1 RBI) were the offensive leaders for the Mountaineers, while Maronpot (2-4, 1 run, 1 RBI), Mueller (2-4, 1 run, 1 RBI), Steel (1-4, 1 run, 1 RBI) and 1B Gavin Sheets (2-3, 1 run, 1 BB) provided most of the firepower for the Demon Deacons.

Both teams sent four pitchers to the mound, with the loss attributed to Brill (0-3) and Wake Forest’s Drew Loepprich (1-2) being credited with the win for his two innings of relief. Hampton’s 5-strikeout performance in six innings as the Mountaineer starter was hampered by four errors committed by App State fielders.  The four Mountaineer hurlers combined for 10 strikeouts vs. just one base on balls.

At #24, Wake Forest was the seventh nationally-ranked opponent for App State in the 2017 season and the young team’s fourth one-run loss in those encounters.  They picked up one win (12-4) against #14-ranked Louisiana on March 18th.

Next up for App State is a 4-game road trip that begins on Friday with a 3-game series against Arkansas-Little Rock in Jonesboro, AR before winding up on April 4th with a non-conference match-up vs. East Tennessee State.

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