The race between Appalachian State University baseball and Furman for a first-round bye in next week’s Southern Conference Tournament will come down to the final day of the regular season after the clubs split a day-night doubleheader on Friday at Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium. Appalachian State won the opener, 11-7, and Furman took the nightcap, 9-2.
The winner of Saturday’s regular-season finale between Appalachian State (19-32, 11-14 SoCon) and Furman (23-30, 11-14 SoCon) will earn one of the six automatic berths in the double-elimination portion of next week’s SoCon Tournament. The loser will have to play in a single-elimination opening round on Tuesday to compete for one of the final two spots in the eight-team double-elimination field. First pitch for Saturday’s winner-take-all showdown is set for 3 p.m. at Smith Stadium.
Things didn’t look good for Appalachian early in Friday’s opening game, as Furman jumped out to a 4-0 lead after just two-and-a-half innings. However, sparked by a 4-for-4, four-run performance by Tyler Zupcic (Charlotte, N.C./Providence), the Mountaineers scored 11 runs over the next six innings to claim the come-from-behind win.
After falling into the early 4-0 hole, the Mountaineers still trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. However, Appalachian pulled even with three runs in the fifth and plated three more in the sixth to take an 8-5 lead.
Furman cut App State’s lead to 8-7 with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings but, sparked by Zupcic’s career-high-tying fourth hit of the game — a double down the left-field line — and RBI by Preston Troutman (Rockwell, N.C./East Rowan), Dillon Dobson (Hamptonville, N.C./Starmount) and Jaylin Davis (McLeansville, N.C./Northeast Guilford), the Mountaineers scored three times in the bottom of the eighth to stretch their advantage to 11-7.
Robert Whaley (Hickory, N.C./Hickory) made the lead stand up in the ninth and Appalachian closed out the all-important series-opening win.
Zupcic’s four-hit performance was his first since April 3, 2011 versus Wofford and highlighted the Mountaineers’ 11-hit effort. Davis chipped in with three hits and two RBI, including his Appalachian State single-season-record-breaking seventh triple of the campaign in the fourth inning. Dobson and Tyler Stroup (Thomasville, N.C./East Davidson) also drove in two runs apiece.
Despite the 11-run, 11-hit outburst by the Mountaineers’ offense, the key to victory was the performances turned in by Dallas DeVrieze (Moline, Ill./Moline) and Whaley out of Appalachian’s bullpen. After Jamie Nunn (Winston-Salem, N.C./Mount Tabor) lasted only 2.2 innings in his first start in three weeks, DeVrieze and Whaley combined to limit Furman to just three runs (two earned) over the final 6.1 innings of the ballgame.
DeVrieze allowed two runs over 4.1 innings to earn the first win of his collegiate career and Whaley surrendered only an unearned run over the final two frames to slam the door for his third save of the season.
In the nightcap, Furman led just 2-1 after four innings but scored four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to pull away and earn the split.
Chris Ohmstede went 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI and Greg Harrison chipped in with four hits and three RBI for the Paladins in the win.
Appalachian State managed only five hits in the loss, including just three in seven innings against FU starter Jacques de Gruy (4-3). Matt Brill (Coal Valley, Ill./Moline) led the Mountaineers with two hits in the defeat.