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Xavier Moronta
Xavier Moronta went three-for-three batting with two runs scored and two RBI.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Baseball Knocks Out Troy in Sun Belt Tournament

A seven-run seventh inning to break a late tie, coupled with a gutsy effort from the Mountaineers’ bullpen, helped sixth-seeded App State push past third-seeded Troy by a 10-6 score in an elimination game Friday to advance to the Sun Belt semifinal round for the second consecutive year.

The script was eerily similar to a season ago, when the Mountaineers scored 10 runs with two outs in the sixth inning to knock the Trojans out of the tournament.

App State (33-20-1) will face second-seeded Southern Miss at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, needing to beat the Golden Eagles twice to advance to a winner-take-all championship on Sunday.

Despite falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, the Mountaineers showed tremendous resolve throughout the ballgame. Max Tramontana came out of the bullpen to limit the first-inning damage, tossing 2.1 innings in relief and striking out three to allow the offense to get back into the game.

After manufacturing a run in the third to slice the deficit in half, App State grabbed the lead for the first time in the fourth inning. Braxton Church was hit by a pitch with two outs, and Xavier Moronta followed with a mammoth two-run home run over the right field fence to give the Mountaineers a 3-2 lead.

After throwing two innings in relief Thursday, Grey LaSpaluto worked a valiant 2.2 innings Friday, striking out four, to help the Mountaineers through the middle innings. LaSpaluto did allow the tying run to score in the sixth, but Ryan Sleeper came out of the bullpen to minimize the damage and keep the game tied at 3-3.

App State then exploded at the plate in the seventh. Church led off the inning with a single, and after Moronta walked, Adam Quintero sacrificed the pair into scoring position. Hunter Wilder then came through with a go-ahead single to right to give the Mountaineers a 4-3 lead, and his quick thinking to advance to an uncovered second base changed the complexion of the inning.

With two runners in scoring position and first base open, Troy walked Joseph Zamora intentionally to load the bases for the top of the order, and Austin St. Laurent came through with an RBI single to extend the lead to 5-3. Then, with Drew Holderbach batting, Noah Manning uncorked a wild pitch and the Trojans threw the ball away trying for an out at the plate, allowing both Wilder and Zamora to score.

Banks Tolley then reached on a throwing error, allowing St. Laurent to come across to score, and CJ Boyd and Church continued the rally with back-to-back RBI singles to push the lead to 10-3. App State tallied six hits in the inning and also took advantage of four Trojan errors in the frame.

Sleeper retired the first seven men he faced in relief and tossed 3.2 scoreless innings before a two-out rally in the ninth allowed Troy (37-22) to bring the game to a 10-6 final.

App State pitching combined to hold the Trojans to just two hits prior to the ninth inning, and finished the game with 10 strikeouts. The Black and Gold stranded 11 Troy runners on base and held the Trojans to just 2-for-22 hitting with runners on base for the game.

{Information provided by Appalachian State Athletics}