LAFAYETTE, La. – With extra innings seemingly on tap for Appalachian State University baseball in the series finale of its Sun Belt Conference opening week with No. 14 Louisiana, a would-be diving fly out was ruled to have hit the ground, putting the eventual winning run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth.
The Mountaineers (9-11, 1-2 Sun Belt) battled with the Ragin’ Cajuns (11-6, 2-1 Sun Belt) fell 4-3 on a walkoff safety squeeze two batters later after a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third on Sunday afternoon at Russo Park.
After having an 11-hit explosion in Game Two, Appalachian had another good day in the batter’s box, despite having “just” five hits on the day.
For the first time all weekend, App State struck first on the scoreboard, putting up two runs in the third. Calev Grubbs began the inning by drawing his 19th walk on the day (would finish with two on the day to have 20 overall) before Jason Curtis reached on a throwing error by the pitcher. Designated hitter Avery Jackson loaded the basis as he was sent to first base on catcher’s interference.
Brian Bauk then brought in two-thirds of Appalachian’s run total on a shot into center field’s no man’s land to bring in Curtis and Grubbs – his second and third RBI of the week.
Fourteenth-ranked Louisiana responded with two of its own, setting the stage for what would largely be a back-and-forth affair.
The Black and Gold would then get two hits, but no runs in the fourth, before Chandler Seagle hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to move their lead back to one – his second of the year. The Cajuns responded in the sixth inning, but would be held scoreless until their final at-bat.
Appalachian once again kept runs to a minimum on the defensive side. Luke Watts went 5.2 innings on the day, allowing just six hits and three runs while striking out two. After getting the save in Game Two, Reed Howell game in to provide relief in the sixth inning, striking out two batters and allowing one run.
Matt Brill also made a brief appearance getting one out in two batters faced.
The pitching staff finished its opening conference weekend with a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings, finishing with 21 strikeouts and just nine earned runs overall compared to App State’s 13 earned runs.
After opening the season with 19 of 20 games on the road, the Mountaineers return to the High Country for five-straight games, beginning Tuesday, March 21 at 5 p.m.