GREENVILLE, S.C. – Despite a game-tying two-run home run by Hector Crespo in the ninth inning to draw the score even, The Citadel’s Joe Jackson put the fourth-seeded Bulldogs into the next round with a walk-off home run over the left center field wall, giving the Dogs a 6-5 victory over fifth-seeded Appalachian State University in the opening round of the Southern Conference Championship on Wednesday at Fluor Field.
The win marks the second time the Bulldogs have captured a walk-off victory over the Mountaineers this season, as The Citadel knocked off the Apps in the final game of their three-game set in April. With the heartbreaking loss, the Mountaineers move into the losers’ bracket and will play on Thursday at 10 a.m. The Apps will face eighth-seeded Samford, who fell to top-seeded, Western Carolina, 13-7, in the other game within Appalachian's bracket.
The Citadel (33-24) benefitted from timely multi-base hits, including a three-run triple by Drew DeKerlegand in the third inning. For the game, the Bulldogs managed just six hits to match their six runs on the day.
Keeping The Citadel batters off balance was App State starter Jamie Nunn, who went six innings, but struggled in the third where he gave up three of his five earned runs. Nunn was able to strikeout six Bulldog batters in the no decision.
Appalachian (28-23) had the upward task of facing SoCon Pitcher of the Year Austin Pritcher, but the lineup got to him early, tallying six hits but leaving six stranded in the first five innings. Pritcher could only manage 4.2 innings of work, while giving up six hits and five walks, tossing 117 pitches.
The Mountaineer offense got a spark in the fourth inning when Michael Pierson, who has not seen game action since a mid-week game against North Carolina, sent a 2-2 count over the right field wall. Pierson finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Crespo tacked on another run in the inning with a sacrifice fly, which plated William Head.
The Apps were shutdown until the ninth when Crespo stepped into the box, facing a 5-3 deficit with two outs. With Bulldog closer Skylar Hunter in the game, Crespo scorched the first pitch he saw over the towering left field wall, evening the score at 5-5. The home run was Crespo’s lone hit of the game, as he finished 1-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored.
A batter later, Noah Holmes lined a double in the left center gap and the momentum shifted to the App State dugout. The Mountaineers tried to get the go-ahead run, as Will Callaway singled up the middle and Brandon Burris, who entered the game for Holmes as a pinch runner, tried to score from the second, but was cutdown at the plate, keeping the score even at 5-5.
Callaway joined Pierson as the only Mountaineers in the lineup to tally a multi-hit game. The shortstop finished with three hits, which increased his hitting streak to 26 games, one shy of the school record set by Rand Smith in 2009.
Despite shutting down The Citadel’s lineup in the last two innings, Taylor Thurber’s only hit given up was the walk-off in the ninth. Until then, Bulldog batters were held hitless since a Mason Davis double to lead off the seven.
NOTES: Appalachian falls to 29-44 (.659) overall and 4-8 against The Citadel in Southern Conference Tournament play … in his 26-game hitting streak, Callaway is now 48-for-114 (.421) with seven doubles, 26 RBI, 24 runs scored and is slugging .588 … the three-hit game gives him 15 of 26 games with multi-hits … Crespo has now reached base safely in 29 of his last 30 games … Holmes has now reached base safely in 13-straight games, while Head has now reached base safely in 11-straight games … as a team, Appalachian is now just three stolen bases away from 100 on the year … Appalachian will now need to win five-straight games to win its first SoCon Tournament Championship since 1984.