CHARLESTON — A competitive game turned into anything but down the stretch.
After being tied with Marshall 1-1 through four innings, Appalachian State baseball team brought the final 11 runs across to snap a six-game losing streak and earn a 12-4 win over the Thundering Herd in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams Friday night at GoMart Ballpark.
“This league is obviously going to have some premier arms, especially on Friday nights, and early on it was a heavyweight fight with two guys going blow for blow on the mound,” App State head coach Kermit Smith said of the pitching performances for both Patrick Copen (Marshall) and Xander Hamilton (App State).
But the visitors continued to claw and wound up with a convincing win in the league opener.
The Mountaineers logged 15 hits and scored one run in each of the fifth through eighth innings to jump in front 5-1 before slamming the door shut in their final half-inning of work, plating seven to push their lead to 12-1.
The Herd scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to set the final score. Daniel Carinci was the only Herd player to log more than a single hit. Luke Edwards tied Victor Gomez’s record of 48 career doubles with a two-bagger in the third inning.
The Mountaineers (9-7, 1-0 Sun Belt) struck first and led 1-0 after the first inning courtesy of Luke Drumheller’s one-out single, which scored Xavier Moronta, who got on base via a leadoff walk. The Herd had a chance to answer in the bottom of the inning but left two runners in scoring position.
Marshall (8-7, 0-1 SBC) found its answer in the bottom of the fourth after Calin Smith reached on an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a single by Carinci to tie the game at 1-1 after four complete innings.
App State went back on top after scoring one run in each of the fifth and six innings as Copen worked deep into his pitch count. Moronta, who scored the first run, doubled off the right-field wall to put the Mountaineers back in front in the fifth inning and Hunter Wilder added a two-out single to push the lead to 3-1 in the top of the sixth.
Copen pitched six full innings, allowed three earned runs on three hits and walked another three batters while striking out 11 Mountaineers, including eight through four innings. On the other side, Hamilton threw 71 strikes on 117 pitches, struck out nine and allowed only one run on five hits, earning the win.
Bryce Blevins entered in relief of Copen and surrendered five runs as App State got hot late.
Marshall nearly turned a double play to get out of the top of the seventh, but Drumheller beat out the throw and the fourth run of the night scored. CJ Boyd hit a solo home run to left field in the eighth inning and Moronta continued his hot-hitting night with a two-RBI double in the ninth inning to blow the game open.
“Effort plays don’t show up on the box scorem but that was one,” Smith said of Drumheller’s hustle down the first-base line to take away the double play from the Herd defense. “Beating that ball makes all the difference. That fourth run, that fifth run is so critical.”
The two sides will play Game 2 of the series on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. at GoMart Ballpark in Charleston. The third and final game of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.
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