Appalachian State scores five unanswered to cap off walk-off win

 Despite leading 4-0 in the seventh inning and taking a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, ETSU couldn’t hold on as Bradley Morton hit a game-tying two-run home run and Zach Hummel’s walk-off triple scored Dylan Hamel, lifting Appalachian State to a 5-4 win over the Buccaneers on Tuesday night at Smith Stadium.

Senior Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) belted his first collegiate home run in his 352nd career at-bat in the top of the fourth, while Jordan Sanford’s (Powell, Tenn.) RBI ground out in the sixth put the Bucs up, 4-0, but the Mountaineers scored five unanswered runs – capped with three in the bottom of the ninth – finishing with a walk-off win for their third straight home finale.

Junior Lee Haeberle (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and sophomore Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) combined for five scoreless innings to start the game, while freshman southpaw Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.) made his season debut on the mound, allowing one run on two hits in two innings of work. Haeberle got the start for the Blue and Gold and held the Mountaineers to a pair of hits and four strikeouts in three innings, and McCann limited Appalachian State to one hit in his two innings of relief. However, junior Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) was tagged for a run on three hits in two-thirds of inning, while red-shirt freshman Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.) suffered the loss (3-3) after issuing the three ninth-inning runs.

Thompson and Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) combined for four of ETSU’s 10 hits, marking the 27th time this season the Bucs have registered double-digit hits. To go with his first collegiate homer, Thompson also reached on a bunt single, while Taylor went 2-for-5 to extend his streak of reaching base to 27 consecutive games. Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Sanford had the other two RBIs for the Blue and Gold.

ETSU, who was looking to sweep the season series for the first time since 2011, suffered its fourth straight setback and moved to 19-33, while Appalachian State ended its season at 17-36.

The Bucs jumped ahead in the top of the third as the first three hitters reached via singles and went up, 1-0, when Cook’s fielder’s choice RBI ground out scored Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.); however, the Mountaineers limited the damage to the lone run as Taylor – who reached on a bunt single – was caught stealing third and Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) flew out to center to end the frame.

ETSU’s pitching staff was zoned in as they took a shutout into the seventh, while the Bucs’ offense pushed across two in the fourth on Thompson’s home run to right and Sanford’s RBI ground out an inning later scored York, making it a 4-0 score.

Unfortunately, after their strong start, the Buccaneer hurlers couldn’t hold the four-run lead and ETSU’s offense was held to four hits in the final five innings.

The shutout bid was snapped in the bottom of the seventh when Conner Leonard worked a one-out walk and scored on Morton’s two-out double to left-center, while Appalachian State pulled within two in the eighth, 4-2, but for the time being, Cate took care of business on the mound and got out of a jam. Following an RBI double by Michael Pierson, the Mountaineers had the tying run at second, but Cate got Leonard out swinging to end the frame, keeping ETSU’s two-run lead intact.

After the Bucs left a runner stranded at second in the ninth, the Mountaineers used their late-inning heroics to finish the comeback.

Noah Holmes led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple to right and trotted home on Morton’s blast to left, and following a one-out walk to Hamel, Taylor had trouble locating the ball in left-center – resulting in the walk-off triple by Hummel.

Travis Holden tossed a scoreless ninth inning to earn the win (2-4), while the last three Mountaineer relievers combined for three scoreless frames and two strikeouts.

Morton finished with three hits and three RBI to lead Appalachian State at the pate.

The Blue and Gold wrap up regular season play this weekend when ETSU hosts Wofford in a three-game set starting Friday night at Thomas Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m.

BY ETSU

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