Boone, N.C. – Luke Robinson blasted a solo home run as a part of a two-hit, two-RBI performance and Matthew Koehler provided Western Carolina’s third run on a towering solo shot in the eighth inning on Tuesday evening. However, a sluggish offensive start by WCU was compounded by a three-run Riley Smith third-inning home run and a couple of costly seventh-inning errors led Appalachian State to a 6-3 nonconference victory over the Catamounts at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium.
Tuesday’s loss was the fifth-straight for the Catamounts in the all-time series with mountain-rival Appalachian State, matching the previous long in series history established back in the 1970-71 seasons. It also marked WCU’s seventh loss in its last nine seasonal games this year.
Robinson finished 2-for-4, adding a double that drove in Daylan Nanny in the seventh inning, while Justin Sparks collected a pair of singles in a 2-for-4 performance. Nanny has hits in seven-straight games. Koehler stretched his active hitting streak to a career-long 14-straight games with his eighth-inning home run in a 1-for-4 outing.
All told, WCU – which entered the game averaging 11 hits per game on the season – was held to just six base hits on the day, its fewest since being limited to three in game three against Elon back on March 17. Tuesday halted a string of four consecutive games with double-digit hits for the Catamounts.
Smith broke the scoreless tie with a three-run home run to left field that just hit the top of the fence and landed on the wrong side for the Catamounts giving the Mountaineers the early, 3-0 lead. In the next half inning, though, Robinson cranked a two-out solo shot over the fence in right field to cut the deficit to two, 3-1. Robinson’s round-tripper halted a string of 14-consecutive retired over the first five innings by Mountaineer starter Jason Cornatzer, representing WCU’s first hit of the game.
In the top of the seventh, Nanny – who finished 1-for-4 on the day – reached on an infield error as the throw to first ended up in the WCU dugout, putting the sophomore transfer at second base. Robinson then uncorked a gap-splitting double to left center allowing Nanny to cruise home, pulling the Catamounts to within a run, 3-2. WCU managed to load the bases in the frame, but was unable to manufacture any more runs.
The Mountaineers (20-22) pulled away for good in the home portion of the seventh as the first two batters reached on a walk and a single, respectively. An error on a would-be force out at third on what would have been a failed sacrifice bunt attempt allowed two runs to scamper home. Smith then drove home the third marker in the frame for his fourth RBI on a sacrifice fly and it was all App State would need.
Koehler blasted a lead-off home run to right – his 10th of the season – in the eighth inning, but a double-play ball started a string of five-consecutive retired by App to end the game, 6-3.
Catamount starter Blake Therrian (2-2) was saddled with the loss, limiting the Mountaineers to three earned runs while scattering 11 base hits including nine singles over a 5.1 inning effort. Therrian induced all three of WCU’s double-plays helping keep the Purple & Gold in the game. Freshman Eric Wallington was tagged for three unearned runs in two-thirds of an inning of relief work, stranding the bases loaded in the sixth before Jacob Corn struck out four in two innings of scoreless, one-hit relief, walking and hitting one batter.
Cornatzer (2-1) earned the midweek victory, limiting the potent Catamount offense to a run on two hits with four strikeouts over five innings. Three Mountaineer relievers combined over the final four frames with Andrew Papp scoring his third save of the year with a strikeout in a perfect ninth inning.
Tyler Leek collected three hits in a 3-for-4 showing to lead five Mountaineers with multi-hit games while Smith drove home a game-high four with a homer and sac fly. Joel McDaniel doubled in a 2-for-5 showing while Luke Drumheller reached base five times including two singles, a walk, and two HBPs.
Despite out-hitting WCU, 13-to-6, App State left 12 men on base in Tuesday’s nonconference game, while WCU stranded just five.
Western Carolina (18-22) continues a stretch of eight straight away from home this weekend as the Catamounts travel to Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., to face nationally-ranked Georgia Tech (30-14). The Yellow Jackets enter the week eighth in the latest NCAA Baseball RPI and are ranked as high as eighth in the national polling from D1Baseball.com, while also ranking 10th in the Baseball America poll, 12th in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association polling, and 14th in the Collegiate Baseball tabulations.