With the setback, sixth-seeded Appalachian (33-20) must win three games in two days to advance to Sunday’s championship game, beginning with Friday’s 3 p.m. elimination matchup versus The Citadel. ASU defeated the third-seeded Bulldogs, 4-1, in Wednesday’s opening round.
No. 2-seeded Georgia Southern (40-15) advances to face either No. 1 Elon, No. 4 Western Carolina or No. 8 Furman on Saturday, needing just one win in two contests to advance to Sunday’s championship game.
ASU out-hit GSU, 14-10, but left runners on base in 7-of-9 innings, including stranding the tying run on third in the eighth and leaving the tying run aboard after a leadoff single in the ninth.
All six of the Eagles’ runs came courtesy of the long ball, including a pair of solo blasts by designated hitter Kyle Blackburn. Blackburn also tripled to tie a SoCon Tournament record with 11 total bases.
Despite GSU’s big swings, the Mountaineers stayed within striking distance throughout and cut the deficit to 6-5 with a pair of runs in the eighth.
Trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth, Nick DeRose and Ryan Arrowood led off the frame with back-to-back singles. A groundout by pinch-hitter Chris Trappy moved the runners to second and third and Jerod Faggart followed with his fourth hit of the ballgame, an RBI single through the right side that brought the Apps within two runs.
Rand Smith battled his way through a nine-pitch at-bat that culminated with him being hit by a pitch to load the bases and Wes Hobson hustled down the line to beat out the throw on what would have been an inning-ending double play, allowing Arrowood to score from third and make it 6-5. However, with Faggart representing the tying run on third and one of the nation’s leading hitters at the plate, Isaac Harrow was called out on a 1-2 pitch to end the ASU threat.
Appalachian wasted no time in putting the tying run on base again in the ninth, as David Towarnicky led off with a bouncer that hopped through the right side and into right field for a single. Chris Alessandria came to the plate with the intention of sacrificing Towarnicky to second but fouled off two bunt attempts before popping up to short. The next two batters went down on a strikeout and groundout to end the ballgame.
Faggart led the Mountaineers’ 14-hit attack by going 4-for-4 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored, raising his batting average from .273 to .294 in the process. Towarnicky added a 3-for-4 effort and Smith and Arrowood chipped in with two hits apiece.
ASU starter Josh Dowdy (6-3) matched season and career highs with seven strikeouts but surrendered six runs in six innings of work to suffer his first loss since March 11.
Georgia Southern’s Jake Brown (6-3) was tagged for 12 hits and walked three in seven innings, but limited the Mountaineers to just five runs and earned the win. Southpaw Dexter Bobo recorded the final five outs for his third save.