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Austin St. Laurent
Austin St. Laurent went three-for-four batting with a run scored and two RBI.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Baseball Downs Georgia Southern

Before the series opener against Georgia Southern, Kermit Smith shuffled his lineup. The result was an explosive night at the plate, helping the Mountaineers’ Head Coach to his 600th career victory – a 10-7 win over the Eagles at J.I. Clements Stadium.

Prior to his arrival in Boone, Smith won 244 games at Lander and 228 at Belmont Abbey, taking each program to the Division II College World Series. He has since won 128 games in seven seasons with the Mountaineers, trailing only Jim Morris (611) and Chris Pollard (244) on the App State wins list.

The Mountaineers (17-14, 7-5) stormed out of the gates offensively, sending eight men to the plate in the first inning. CJ Boyd reached on an infield single to begin the ballgame, and traded places with Luke Drumheller on a fielder’s choice. With one out, Hayden Cross drew a walk, and Austin St. Laurent followed with an RBI single to center field. Jonathan Xuereb then laced a two-run single to left field to give App State a 3-0 lead. Xavier Moronta capped off the inning with an RBI single to center to put App State ahead, 4-0.

Georgia Southern (16-18, 6-7) opened the first inning with a single and a double to plate a run before the first out was recorded. However, the RBI double from Jarrett Brown was the final hit that Hamilton would allow. He retired 12 of the next 13 hitters he faced, and finished his outing with nine strikeouts, to give him a conference-best 70 punchouts on the season.

Hamilton (win, 6-2) went six innings, allowing just two runs, on two hits and three walks, to go along with his nine strikeouts.

After the Mountaineers tacked on a run in the third inning on a Xuereb sac fly to score Golston Gillespie, who led off with a walk, App State added two more in the fifth. Moronta singled through the right side with two outs, and Alex Aguila followed by blasting a two-run home run deep into the trees in left field to put the Mountaineers ahead, 7-1.

Hamilton came out for the seventh inning, but after giving up back-to-back walks to begin the frame, the Mountaineers went to the bullpen. The Eagles began to chip away, helped by six walks in the inning. They plated four runs in the frame, and trimmed the Mountaineer lead down to two.

App State responded in the eighth as St. Laurent, Xuereb and Morotna tallied three consecutive RBI singles, just as they did in the first inning, to stretch the lead back to 10-5.

After the Eagles loaded the bases with nobody out in their half of the eighth, the Mountaineers called on Collin Welch, who was able to escape the jam, yielding just a sacrifice fly. Welch (save, 1) stayed on for the ninth and got a double-play ball to end the ballgame, securing his first save of the year.

App State came through in the clutch all night long. The Mountaineers tallied 10 of their 14 hits in two-out situations, and went 6-for-16 (.375) with runners in scoring position, while limiting the Eagles to just 2-for-12 (.167) in those spots. St. Laurent and Moronta each finished with three-hit, two-RBI games, while Xuereb drove in a career-high four runs.

The teams will face off Saturday afternoon in the middle game of the three-game series. Right-hander Bradley Wilson will make the start for the Mountaineers, opposed by Eagles lefty Mitchell Gross. First pitch is set for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.