Timely hitting, clutch pitching and, yes, some incredible defense carried App State to a 4-2 victory against Georgia State to open their Sun Belt Conference series Friday night.
The Mountaineers (12-13) improved to 5-2 in league play, 8-0 at home this season and 10-0 at home since the new turf was installed on Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium before the 2020 season.
Bailey Welch’s two-run homer just out of the reach of the leaping left fielder tied the game in the fifth inning, and Robbie Young’s bloop single over a drawn-in shortstop sent Luke Drumheller and Kendall McGowan home with the tiebreaking runs in the sixth inning.
Tyler Tuthill allowed one earned run in 5.1 innings, and Jason Cornatzer earned the win by retiring eight of the nine batters he faced. He struck out four batters, reaching 95 mph with his fastball, before giving way to Eli Ellington for the ninth.
Ellington recorded his third save with a clean frame that included an acrobatic, leaping catch against the wall from center fielder Alex Leshock, who raced back toward the warning track on a hard-hit ball from cleanup hitter Will Mize.
Earlier in the game, Drumheller ranged to his right, past second base, to backhand an up-the-middle hit and deliver a strong throw across his body for an unlikely out. An inning later, with two runners on, he made a diving stop before flipping the ball to Welch, who skipped across the bag and one-hopped a throw to Young, whose handcuffed scoop at first secured a key double play.
Hayden Cross, who had App State’s other extra-base hit, also threw out an attempted steal of third early in the game.
Georgia State, which played its first 18 games this season against Power Five programs, took a 1-0 lead in the second inning and moved ahead 2-0 in the top of the fifth with an unearned run that followed an errant pickoff attempt. Trying to break through against left-hander Cameron Jones, the Mountaineers started their push as Leshock singled with two out in the fifth. Welch got down in the count 1-2 but lifted a 2-2 pitch just over the wall in left.
An inning later, Drumheller drew a one-out walk and moved to third on McGowan’s double to the wall in left. Georgia State’s left fielder nearly made the catch but couldn’t come up with the flyball after bouncing off the wall.
With two runners in scoring position, Young delivered his critical hit to shallow left field, with a good read from McGowan allowing him to score from second.