A boisterous crowd of 812 — the largest mid-week attendance in Smith Stadium history — saw Appalachian (10-2) extend its winning streak to eight games and beat Duke for the first time in 37 years.
The Mountaineers, which came into the contest hitting .315 with two outs, was a spectacular 9-for-18 with two away on Wednesday evening to raise its already lofty average with two outs to .338 on the season.
The two-out fireworks began in the first inning when Will Callaway singled, stole second and scored on Daniel Kassouf’s opposite-field RBI single to give ASU an early 1-0 lead.
The Mountaineers did the majority of their damage an inning later when Tyler Zupcic hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run to left field to stretch the advantage to 3-0. The two-out rally was far from over, however, as the Apps strung together three more hits, capped by Tyler Tewell’s bases-clearing triple to right field that gave Appalachian a commanding 5-0 lead.
Duke (7-8) chipped away at the five-run deficit with two runs in the fourth, one in the sixth and one in the seventh but the Mountaineers mustered yet another two-out rally to add an all-important insurance run in the eighth. With it looking like ASU would take a slim 5-4 advantage into the ninth inning, Tewell and Jeremy Dowdy put together back-to-back doubles, the latter of which brought Tewell home from second to give the Apps a much more comfortable 6-4 lead.
The insurance run ultimately proved to be unnecessary in the ninth when, after a leadoff infield single, closer Nathan Hyatt induced the Blue Devils to hit into their fifth double play of the night to end the ballgame. The Mountaineers’ five double plays, all of which were started by Callaway at shortstop, marked just the 13th time in SoCon history that a team turned five twin-killings in one game. Appalachian had only accomplished the feat once before, during a 9-5 SoCon Tournament win over Western Carolina on April 24, 1984.
In addition to the record-setting performance in the middle of the infield, the middle of Appalachian’s batting order also came up big in Wednesday’s victory. ASU’s No. 3-7 hitters (Callaway, Kassouf, Tewell, Dowdy and Noah Holmes) all had multiple hits, combining for 12 of the Mountaineers’ 14 hits on the evening. Tewell led the way, falling just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle in a 3-for-5, two-RBI performance. Kassouf also went 3-for-5 with an RBI while Zupcic matched Tewell’s two runs driven in.
Backed by the spectacular defense, true freshman Jeffrey Springs pitched five solid innings (7 H, 2 ER, 2 K) to earn his first collegiate win. Thanks to the fifth and final double play of the evening, Hyatt faced the minimum in the ninth to earn his fifth save.
Jeff Kremer, Grant McCabe, Jordan Betts and Anthony D’Alessandro had two hits apiece to lead Duke.
Appalachian opens SoCon play this weekend with a three-game series versus Davidson. The three-game set begins on Friday at 3 p.m. at Smith Stadium.
NOTES: The previous record crowd for a mid-week game at Smith Stadium was 474 for a 10-3 loss to Gardner-Webb on April 9, 2008 ... Appalachian’s eight-game winning streak is its longest since it won nine in a row from April 6-17, 2010 ... ASU moved to 2-4 all-time versus Duke ... the Mountaineers’ only previous win in the series came in 1975, a 9-1 triumph in Durham ... the teams meet again next Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park ... Appalachian has allowed four runs or less in each of its first 12 games — prior to this season, the longest an ASU team had ever gone into a campaign before an opponent scored at least five runs in a contest was six games, a feat achieved just last year ... Dowdy has reached base in all 11 games he has played this season.