SoCon Tourney: Apps hold on in extra innings

An eleventh inning solo home run by Michael Pierson was the difference on Wednesday afternoon as Appalachian State beat Georgia Southern 3-2 in the first round of the 2014 SoCon Baseball Tournament.

For the second time in as many games, the Mountaineers used a ninth inning rally to extend the game, as they trailed by a run going into the final frame. Last Saturday, Appalachian trailed Furman by a run going to the ninth and used a walk off base hit by senior Tyler Zupcic to win and set up the matchup with the Eagles. Appalachian was 0-28 on the season when trailing after 8 innings, but have now managed to come from behind in their last two games.

Appalachian was kept off the board until the top of the seventh inning. Michael Pierson led off the inning with a single and eventually advanced to third base after a couple of Eagles wild pitches. With two outs, Georgia Southern pulled their starter, and SoCon pitcher of the year Josh Wirsu in the middle of Jaylin Davis’ at bat. The sophomore centerfielder was unfazed as he slapped a base hit up the middle to score Pierson.

The ninth inning began with with Preston Troutman reaching second base on an a throwing error. It was the only error in the game, and the Eagles paid for it. Pierson advanced Troutman with a grounder to the right side of the infield. One batter later, Dillon Dobson smashed a single through the left side with two outs to tie the game at two.

Both teams squandered chances to score runs in the tenth inning which set the stage for Pierson in the eleventh. Pierson curled a 1-1 pitch pitch off the foul pole in right field. At Joe Riley Park, the right field line is measured at 337 feet and the wind was blowing in from right field for most of the game. Pierson hit the ball to perhaps the most difficult part of the park for the winning run.

Both teams got excellent pitching from their starters despite neither factoring into the decision. Tyler Moore went eight innings only surrendering two runs on five hits, and walking none, Moore threw 91 pitches, which is a perfectly low count for a tournament format. Moore can be used later in the tournament should the Mountaineers advance. Robert Whaley picked up his third win of the year on thirty pitches and will most likely be unavailable on Thursday.

Appalachian was also the benefactor of great defense. Tyler Stroup made two great catches in the game, saving extra base hits. In the first inning, Stroup caught a ball as he collided with the left field wall nearly simultaneously. Stroup also made a diving catch in the ninth inning that would have given Georgia Southern a runner in scoring position had the play not been made. Jaylin Davis doubled up Georgia Southern in the tenth inning with two runners on base. Davis made the catch on the run and fooled the Eagle runner on second base, making the catch look easy. Davis then fired the throw behind the runner whose late slide was not in time to beat the throw.

Appalachian will now face Furman, who they played last weekend to advance in the winners bracket. A win would give Appalachian a day off on Friday, while the loser will play the winner of Georgia Southern and Western Carolina on Friday. Being a team without a tourney loss on Saturday would force the winner of the losers bracket to beat that team twice on Saturday to advance to the title game on Sunday.

App. State Men and Women advance at SoCon Tournament


Appalachian and Charleston played a really close game until the final few minutes when Appalachian’s pressure finally got to Charleston. Appalachian was in control for much of the game, but could never really extend their lead in the first half. Charleston led by a point on one occasion, but Appalachian quickly regained the lead. For much of the game, the Mountaineers led by just under ten points as Charleston hung around as long as they could.

The Cougars were still in the game with 2:09 remaining, as they only trailed by six points. The Mountaineers would finish the game on a 8-0 run to mark the final tally at 74-60. Six of those eight points came at the free throw line via Maryah Sydnor and Anna Freeman. Bria Huffman hit a basket as well in that final run by the Mountaineers.

Anna led all scorers with 23 points and added ten rebounds. Maryah Sydnor scored 17 points and added a half dozen rebounds. Raven Gary added 14 points, six rebouns and four assists. Courtney Freeman chipped in eleven points. Three Mountaineers, Sydnor, Anna, and Courtney accumulated twelve of the nineteen Appalachian fouls as all three were called for four. Charleston threw up another twenty three point attempts, and were mostly unsuccessful, hitting only five of them. The Cougars attempted 28 more shots than Appalachian, and the Mountaineers turned the ball over 13 more times than their opponent.

Appalachian gave up 20 offensive rebounds to Charleston, and must clean that up if they want to beat Chattanooga. The Mocs pounded Appalachian just eight days ago at home. The key to beating the Mocs is playing good perimeter defense and getting in the face of the Mocs three point shooters. Appalachian must also be very aware of Chattanooga’s post players, and do everything they can to limit the Mocs to one shot on the offensive end. Appalachian and Chattanooga will face off at noon on Sunday.

(We made the tough decision and attended the men’s game on Saturday)


Appalachian jumped all over a tired Furman team in the first half and never looked back. Appalachian used a 7-0 run the jump out to an 18-7 lead early in the first half. Moments later, a 10-2 run by Appalachian up by seventeen points, a lead they would two more times in the first half before heading to the locker room with a fourteen point halftime lead. Appalachian used active hands on the defensive end, something we had not seen all year long. Their hands were in the passing lanes on the wings, and once the ball was tipped, the Mountaineers were off and running for easy fast break points.

Furman cut the lead to five points at 38-33 early in the second half, but Appalachian once again answered with a huge run, another 7-0 run, that put that back up by double digits with 16:17 to play in the game. Furman would once again cut the lead back down to single digits at 47-40, before Appalachian finally put the Paladins away. Over the next 5:23 of game time, the Mountaineers went on a 19-5 run that gave them the Mountaineers their biggest lead of the game with just over eight minutes to play.

Furman responded with a 10-0 run, but it was too little too late for the Paladins. Tevin Baskin put a bow on the game as Furman went up for a breakaway dunk with 13 seconds left and Baskin emphatically blocked it away to preserve a 74-60 final margin.

In the earlier meeting against Furman, Appalachian had very balanced scoring, as four players scored 14 points. Scoring was very balanced against Furman in the tournament as no player scored more than 13 points. Nathan Healy and Jay Canty scored 13 as Jamaal Trice added twelve points to round out the Mountaineer double figure scorers. Baskin and Tab Hamilton added nine points each while Michael Obacha scored eight points and led the team with seven rebounds.

Next up for the Mountaineers is Davidson, who blistered Georgia Southern with three pointers, nailing ten in the first half, and thirteen for the game. Five Wildcats scored in double figures in the 86-59 win. Davidson handled Appalachian in both meeting this season, so this game will be a tall task for the Mountaineers. Most consider Appalachian the weakest of the four top seeds and predicted they would make an early exit in the tournament. Davidson and Appalachian have never met in the semifinals before and Appalachian is 1-3 all time against the Wildcats in the tournament. Davidson has easily brought the most fans to the tournament, but hopefully a 6pm start will bring a few more Mountaineers to Asheville.

Appalachian opens tournament against Furman

Furman pulled off the upset of the evening last night if you want to believe most SoCon experts. The fact is, there is not a huge gap between the bottom teams of this conference and the lower middle teams. Samford, who Furman beat on Friday, prefers a slower pace of basketball, which induces a game of half court basketball where execution is vital. Samford and Furman both play very short benches and a Furman victory to us was not as surprising as it was for most. Furman had been playing much better down the stretch, despite losing ten games in a row.

Furman won their eighth game of the season last night while getting several players back from injury. Stephen Croone came back from a foot injury, playing in only his second game back from injury and scored eleven of Furman’s 55 points. Croone drilled the Mountaineers for twenty points in their only meeting earlier this year in Boone. Charlie Reddick scored eight points and grabbed ten rebounds in a game where the Paladins outrebounded the Bulldogs 34-24. Furman also had a big game from Bobby Austin who scored seventeen points in 34 minutes.

Appalachian must regroup and focus after an emotional week of basketball last week. The Mountaineers were able to win two games in order to clinch the bye. Furman may have gained some confidence last night, but will have to play after less than a day of rest. The only meeting between the two schools earlier this year featured another one of Appalachian’s games where they blew a big lead and had to hold on late. Appalachian had an 18 point lead in the first half before eventually allowing Furman to cut the lead to one point late in the game. March is not the time for loss of focus and Appalachian must keep its down and grind this win out before worrying about who they may play tomorrow.

We are still waiting on Vegas to chime in on this game. This usually happens where we cannot find a line for tournament games until right before tipoff. Considering other high profile games that are being played across the country, it is very possible that we do not see a line in this game at all. We will keep checking until game time. Our guess is the Mountaineers are favored by 5.5 points, but that could be generous. It is possible this line could be as high as 7 points.

11:25 UPDATE: Appalachian has opened as 6 point favorite. This is what we were expecting. We will keep waiting for movement before we make a pick.

Appalachian State Baseball (39-16) vs Furman (28-30) SoCon Tourney

Due to a conflict, pregame article could not be completed. A short summary is provided.

A day after Appalachian gave up the most runs and hits of the season, Furman decided to up the ante, and scored 13 runs on 17 hits. Appalachian started the game with a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, but Furman answered with seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. Rob Marcello managed one out, and surrendered six earned runs. Marcello’s 18 pitches was by far a season low. The day after Seth Grant laid an egg on the mound, Marcello took his performance to unfathomable low.

The Moutaineers were defeated 13-4. Will Callaway and Tyler Tewell had two hits and two RBI each. The Moutaineers will wait until Monday to discover their fate for postseason play. A regional with a high seed was considered a lock before the tournament, but Appalachian put up two stinkers in back to back games and exited the conference tournament a lot earlier than expected. The Mountaineers RPI dropped to 40, which is securely on the bubble, but hopefully, winning the regular season of the 7th rated RPI conference will be enough to keep Appalachian in consideration.

Appalachian State Baseball (39-15, 21-9 SoCon) vs Samford (37-21, 19-11 SoCon) SoCon Tourney

Samford advanced in the winners bracket with a 7-0 shutout of Western Carolina, in a game that started two hours late and ended at approximately 12:30 AM on Thursday morning. Chances are high that the scheduled 8 PM start of tonight’s game will also be pushed back. Samford will most likely start Charles Basford, who did not factor into the decision in a 7-4 Appalachian win two weeks ago in Birmingham. Last year, Basford struck out a career high ten batters and pitched 8.1 innings in a win at Appalachian.

Appalachian won two of three games at Samford this year in a series that was a very back and forth affair. Appalachian won game one with four runs in the ninth inning. The second game featured Samford scoring four runs in the eighth inning to win 4-2. Appalachian won the rubber match 9-7 in a game that featured three lead changes. Last year against Samford, Seth Grant took a loss, despite holding Samford to one earned run and five hits in six innings. Grant has not recorded a decision in five straight starts and his last win came in the home series against Charleston.

Probable Starters

ASU Sr. RHP Seth Grant (6-3, 2.70) vs SU Sr. RHP Charles Basford (8-2, 4.04)

If Appalachian had any answers to Samford’s pitching on Thursday evening, the Samford offense seemed to come up with more answers than the Mountaineers could muster. Samford pounded the Appalachian pitching staff for 16 hits and 12 runs, the second highest run total the Mountaineers had allowed all season, in a 12-7 win. Seth Grant was tagged with an ugly loss, giving up eight earned runs in only 4.2 innings, on only 77 pitches. Both numbers were season lows for Grant. It was easily his worst performance of the season.

The seven runs the Mountaineers produced came from Trey Holmes, who hit his sixth home run of the season on a two run shot in the fourth inning. Mostly, Appalachian took advantage of four Samford errors which led to five of the Mountaineers runs. Hector Crespo, Tyler Zupcic and Daniel Kassouf had two hits each. Tyler Tewell hit his 16th double of the season. Appalachian will now face Furman for the fifth time this season, and second time in this tournament in a losers bracket game.

Appalachian State Baseball (36-12, 20-7 SoCon) @ Samford (33-19, 19-11)

Last weekend, the series against Greensboro was a big deal for Appalachian, and this weekend, the baseball games mean even more. The race is super tight for the SoCon regular season crown, and both Samford and Appalachian can make major strides to achieving their goals this weekend. Appalachian is in a good spot, controlling its own destiny, needing to win four of its last six conference games to secure the title. Samford really needs a sweep as they sit a game behind second place Charleston. Appalachian has to play its final six conference games on the road, and Samford is 7-5 at home this season against conference opponents. Those game include series wins over Citadel and Furman, taking three games from Western Carolina, and being swept by Elon. Samford had won seven in a row and eleven of twelve games before falling in the series finale at Georgia Southern last weekend.

This series will be a battle of offenses versus pitching. Both Samford and Appalachian have superior pitching staffs and high team batting averages. Appalachian hits .317 as a team compared to the .303 that Samford hits. Samford’s pitching staff edges out Appalachian with a 3.68 team ERA compared the the Mountaineers’ 3.72. This could be a very interesting series considering these powerful numbers for both teams. Most likely we will see a series very similar to the one at Georgia Southern. I doubt either team sweeps, but I can see one pitching duel, a one run game, and one blowout.

Probable Starters

Game 1

ASU Sr. RHP Ryan Arrowood (9-0, 3.77) vs. SU Sr. RHP Charles Basford (8-2, 3.87)

Two great performances by both starting pitchers resulted in neither one earning a decision. This game was up to the bullpens when Samford starter Charles Basford left in the eighth inning with runners on first and second base and one out. Samford reliever Joseph Burns balked the runners to scoring position before he threw his first pitch. Burns was able to force a groundout before a confusing intentional walk to the slumping Jeremy Dowdy with two outs. The second pitch to Trey Holmes hit him, which brought in the tying run heading into the bottom half of the inning.

Not to be outdone, Appalachian’s bullpen allowed a run on two hits with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to give the lead back to Samford heading into the final inning. Samford needed three outs to win the game. After Arthur Strauss was able to retire pinch hitter Brandon Burris, he issued a walk to Appalachian’s leading base stealer Hector Crespo. Strauss sandwiched a walk to Tyler Zupcic between Crespo stealing second and third base. Will Callaway endured a nine pitch at-bat and reached base on a fielders choice RBI that scored Crespo. With runners on first and second, Daniel Kassouf popped up in the infield. With the score now knotted at four runs apiece and still two outs, Samford’s bullpen had given up a lead in consecutive innings. Tyler Tewell would face Samford’s third pitcher of the inning, and he wasted no time. Tewell singled on the first pitch, scoring Zupcic and putting Callaway on third. Lex Rutledge would then balk, allowing Callway to score, and moving Tewell to second base. Jeremy Dowdy would then single on a 0-2 count to plate the fourth run of the inning for Appalachian on only two hits.

The bottom of the ninth inning was uneventful as Nathan Hyatt retired the side on seven pitches for his twelfth save of the season. Appalachian scored five runs in their final two at bats for the come from behind win. Rhyne Frankoff (1-1) was credited the win by striking out one batter in the eighth inning. Tyler Tewell collected two hits and two RBI, including his sixth home run of the season on a solo shot in the sixth inning. Hector Crespo and Tyler Zupcic also collected two hits. For Ryan Arrowood (9-0, 3.66), it was his fourth no decision of the season and he threw 100 pitches or more in his third consecutive start. Arrowood has also lowered his ERA in six straight starts. Arrowood only managed two strikeouts for the game, his lowest total of the season.

Game 2

ASU Sr. RHP Seth Grant (6-2, 3.08) vs. SU Sr. RHP Josh Martin (9-1, 3.42)

Since Samford’s bullpen gave Appalachian the win in the first game of the doubleheader, it was only fair for the Mountaineers to return the favor. Seth Grant pitched seven innings, only giving up four hits, but managed to find himself with his fourth consecutive no decision. Appalachian needed five pitchers in the eighth inning to retire Samford. The Bulldogs recorded five of their nine hits in the eighth and also took advantage of a two out walk to score four runs, which provided the final margin, giving Samford a 4-2 win.

Appalachian could only manage five hits and two runs against Samford starter Josh Martin, who went the distance to earn the complete game. Martin threw 120 pitches, striking out six Mountaineers and only walking one. Appalachian scored their two runs on Martin in the first inning when Crespo and Zupcic led off the game with singles. Callaway was able to reach base after a throwing error which scored Crespo and allowed Zupcic to advance to third base. Daniel Kassouf grounded into a double play, but Zupcic scored on the play. Four of the five Mountaineer hits came from its top three batters in the lineup. Appalachian scored two runs or less for only the fifth time all season and fell to 1-4 in those games.

Game 3

ASU Jr. LHP Rob Marcello (6-3, 4.04) vs. SU Sr. RHP Kyle Putkonen (2-5, 5.85)

In the all important rubber match, Appalachian took advantage of nine free passes and twelve hits  to hold off Samford for a 9-7 win. The Mountaineers were able to chase Samford starter Kyle Putkonen after only three innings, where he allowed five hits and three runs. For the third straight game, an Appalachian starting pitcher did not garner a decision, the first instance all season. Rob Marcello was able to get through 4.2 innings, but allowed nine hits and issued four walks.

Jeremy Dowdy might have broken his slump as he hit a two-run home run in the second inning. Dowdy exited in the fifth inning in what appears to be a move to rest him, considering catching a doubleheader the previous day. Hector Crespo, Will Callaway, Daniel Kassouf and Tyler Tewell all collected two hits each. Callaway, Kassouf and Tewell all recorded their 15th double of the season. Jamie Nunn (5-0) picked up the win in relief despite allowing two runs. Tyler Moore recorded his first save of the season, the only save not recorded by Nathan Hyatt this season.

With the series win, Appalachian eliminated Samford from conference title contention. Elon still has an outside chance if they were to sweep Citadel next weekend, Appalachian were to be swept by Western Carolina, and Charleston were to be swept by Greensboro. The likelihood of that happening is very slim, but its a possibility. Most importantly, Appalachian moved its magic number to two. The Mountaineers need a combination of wins or Charleston losses to clinch its first conference title since in twenty five years. Furman remains in eighth place, and would be Appalachian’s first round opponent if the conference tournament were to start today. Furman holds a one game lead over Greensboro for the final tournament spot and can clinch that spot with two wins over Davidson, as it holds the tiebreaker over Greensboro.

Appalachian State Womens Basketball: Chattanooga Postgame (SoCon Tourney Semifinals)

In what could be considered the best overall team performance of the season, Appalachian defeated Chattanooga 77-52 in a Southern Conference Tournament semifinal game. Appalachian shot 51% from the field and held Chattanooga to 29% shooting. It was the Mocs second worst shooting effort on the season. Appalachian jumped out to a 24-12 lead with eight minutes to play in the first half, but the Mocs went on a 16-4 run over the next 4:47 to tie the game at 28. Appalachian held a five point halftime lead.

In the second half, the Mountaineers were never really threatened. Anna Freeman hit a three pointer on the opening possession of the second half to put the Mountaineers up eight points. Chattanooga cut the Mountaineer lead to eight points on two occasions in the second half, before the Mountaineers pushed the lead to double digits with 12:54 remaining in the game. The Mountaineers held that double digit lead for the rest of the game and led by as many as twenty seven points before the final margin was reached.

Maryah Sydnor poured in a career high 30 points on 13/18 shooting and grabbed ten rebounds. Three other Mountaineers scored in double figures led by Courtney Freeman with 15 points and 7 rebounds. “TC” Weldon scored 14 points with 5 assists and Anna Freeman scored 12 points with 9 rebounds. Kelsey Sharkey added 10 rebounds and four points.

Appalachian will now play Samford in the conference championship game for the second consecutive season. Appalachian controlled the entire game last year before falling victim to untimely turnovers in the last minute of the game. Samford also defeated Appalachian in the semifinals of the conference tournament two seasons ago.

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: Western Carolina Postgame (SoCon Tourney)

Appalachian started quickly and never really looked back in an eighteen point win over Western Carolina in a SoCon Tournament quarterfinal game. Appalachian raced out to a 19 point lead in the first half before allowing a barrage of three pointers from Western Carolina that cut the lead to four at halftime. After the break, the Lady Mountaineers did not allow Western to score until the 12:21 mark of the second half, and by then the Mountaineers had pushed their lead back to double digits.

Although it was a dominating performance, it was sufficient and suffocating. The Catamounts could only manage 18 points in the second half and committed 29 turnovers for the game. Appalachian was led by Anna Freeman who scored 17 points and grabbed eleven rebounds. “TC” Weldon scored sixteen points and six steals. Chattanooga awaits the Mountaineers in the semfinals as they came back from a five point halftime deficit to defeat Furman.

Appalachian State Men’s Basketball: UNC-Greensboro Postgame


The importance of the regular season reared its ugly head once again and the Appalachian State fell on the wrong side of that equation. Securing a bye in the tournament is extremely critical, and it was apparent that playing for the second straight day took its toll on the Mountaineers. Appalachian was in control of the game for the first 29 minutes of the game, when they lead by 11points. At that point, Appalachian went ice cold down the stretch, socring only six points for the remainder of the game, and netting only one basket.

Despite the cold shooting performance, Ike Butts ended his Mountaineer career in style, with 16 points and ten rebounds. Omar Carter added 10 points and five rebounds, but only shot 4-17 from the floor. After securing a seven point halftime lead, Appalachian only scored 16 points in the second half, a day after exploding for 60 points in the second half against Charleston.


Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: Chattanooga 2/27/2012

It comes down to tonight for the ouright SoCon Championship for the Mountaineer women when they face Chattanooga on the road. Appalachian holds a one game lead in the conference standings and has secured a share of the title with Davidson. However, tonight is all about conference seeding. With an Appalachian win, they secure the first seed in the Southern Conference Tournament and force Chattanooga and Davidson to the other side of the bracket.

In the first meeting this season, Chattanooga led by as many as ten points in the first half before going to the break only up by one point on the Mountaineers. Appalachian went on a 15-6 run in the final 11:55 of the first half. On the opening possession of the second half, Anna Freeman blocked a Whitney Hood shot that led to a layup by Maryah Sydnor. Appalachian took the lead and never relinquished it for the rest of the game in a 62-51 win. When you consider the score with with 11:55 remaining in the first half, Appalachian finished the game outscoring the Mocs by a 49-28 margin over the games final 32 minutes. Appalachian outrebounded the Mocs by a similar margin for the game, 48-25.