As has become a summer tradition, appstatesports.com is counting down Appalachian State University athletics' 30 most memorable games, matches and meets from the 2015-16 academic year. This year's countdown begins on Tuesday, July 5 and will continue until Tuesday, August 2.
Be sure to check appstatesports.com each day to relive all of the Mountaineers' most lasting memories of an exciting and successful 2015-16.
Mountaineers Walk Past No. 23 South Alabama, 4-3
April 15, 2016
BOONE, N.C. — Freshman Beau Myers’ bases-loaded walk capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning and lifted Appalachian State University baseball to its biggest win of the season to date, a 4-3 triumph over No. 23 South Alabama on Friday night at Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium.
With the victory, Appalachian State (9-25, 4-12 Sun Belt) handed 23rd-ranked South Alabama (26-9, 15-1 Sun Belt) its first Sun Belt Conference loss of the season. After going nearly 29 years without beating a nationally ranked team from 1982-2011, App State now owns 10 wins over ranked teams since ‘11, including at least one in five of the last six seasons.
Things looked bleak for the Mountaineers on Friday night when they entered the bottom of the ninth inning facing a 3-1 deficit and South Alabama closer Shane McKinley on the mound. However, McKinley (1-2) was shaky from the get-go, walking senior Grayson Atwood and sophomore Chandler Seagle to put the tying run on base with nobody out.
Pinch-hitter Drake Zupcic followed with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to bring Matt Vernon to the plate with runners on second and third and one out. Vernon, who was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts to that point in the contest, fell behind 0-2 in the count, prompting head coach Billy Jones to call a timeout to meet with the junior-college transfer. After the conference with Jones, Vernon drew even in the count at 2-2 then ripped a line drive back up the middle. Pinch-runner Jason Curtis and Seagle easily scored to knot the ballgame at 3-3.
Following Vernon’s game-tying hit, McKinley issued walks to two of the Mountaineers’ next three batters to load the bases for Myers with two outs. Myers never took the bat off his shoulder, walking on five pitches to force Vernon home with the winning run and trigger the Mountaineers’ third-straight walkoff celebration at home.
The late-game heroics overshadowed a terrific pitchers’ duel between Appalachian State true freshman Bobby Hampton and South Alabama all-America candidate Kevin Hill.
Hampton turned in the finest performance of his young career, keeping South Alabama off the scoreboard for the first six innings of the game. Protecting a 1-0 lead the seventh, the southpaw allowed a one-out single but retired the next batter to bring No. 7 hitter Danny Martinez to the plate with two outs. Martinez, who came into the game with just one home run this season, launched a 2-0 pitch into the USA bullpen in right field to give the Jaguars their first lead at 2-1.
Hampton was lifted from the game after a career-high-tying seven innings pitched and South Alabama tacked on another run in the top of the eighth to make it 3-1. The eighth-inning damage could have been much worse but App State reliever Reed Howell came on with two on, no outs and a run already in and got out of the jam with a groundout and two strikeouts.
Howell (3-1) pitched another perfect inning in the ninth to earn the win. Hampton (7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) did not figure in the decision despite outdueling Hill (8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K) for much of the evening. Thanks to the Mountaineers’ ninth-inning comeback against McKinley, Hill also didn’t figure in decision and remains at 7-1 on the season.
Leonard went 3-for-4 to pace Appalachian State’s seven-hit attack while Myers and Vernon drove in two runs apiece. Vernon’s game-tying single in the ninth extended his hitting streak to 11 games, the longest by a Mountaineer this season.
Heart-stopping contests have become a trend for Appalachian State, as five of the Mountaineers’ last six Sun Belt games have been decided in walkoff fashion. App State claimed back-to-back walkoff wins two weekends ago against Little Rock and suffered consecutive walkoff defeats last weekend at Troy.
Appalachian State and South Alabama resume their three-game Sun Belt series on Saturday. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Smith Stadium.
Appalachian State Athletics' Most Memorable Moments of 2015-16
No. 30: Women's Tennis 4, Georgia Southern 2 (April 20, 2016)
No. 29: App State Knocks Off No. 24 Duke (December 15, 2015)
No. 28: Another 8-7 Walkoff Win Clinches Series Victory (April 4, 2016)
No. 27: Apps Catch Fire in Resilient Win (January 28, 2016)
No. 26: Mountaineers Receive Votes for AP Top 25 (October 15, 2015)
No. 25: Men's Tennis Ousts Troy, Advances to SBC Semis (April 22, 2016)
No. 24: Apps Down GSU with Clutch Plays in Late Moments (Feb. 27, 2016)
No. 23: Frank Eaves Nets 1,000 Career points in 76-67 Win over GSU (Jan. 21, 2015)
No. 22: Jalin Moore Breaks Freshman Rushing Record in 47-20 Win (Nov. 14, 2015)
No. 21: Van Ord Leads App State with 10,000-Meter Win - Sun Belt Champ (May 13, 2016)
No. 20: Broaden Claims Sun Belt Title in 400-Meter Hurdles - Sun Belt Champ (May 13, 2016)
No. 19: Moriarty Cards Career-Low 65; Ties Program Record (March 7, 2016)
No. 18: Pepper Butler Graduates During Special Ceremony (March 19, 2016)
No. 17: Mountaineers Down NJIT, Advance to SBC Semifinal (Nov. 12, 2015)
No. 16: Women's Golf Wins Mimosa Hills Intercollegiate (April 4, 2016)
No. 15: Men's and Women's XC Take Home Second at SBC Championships (November 1, 2015)
No. 14: Dawson Secures First Win as Head Coach (August 30, 2015)
No. 13: Mountaineers Walk Past No. 23 South Alabama, 4-3 (April 15, 2016)