June 3, 2012
Around the Regionals
Scores & Schedules
State Survives Virginia
By Sean Ryan
press conference photo by Sean Ryan
action shot by ASU Athletics/Dave Mayo
Va. – Chris Pollard remembers being a
high school junior at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg,
Va., nearly 25 years ago and playing at the University of
Virginia, back when there was one set of wooden bleachers and
worn Astroturf once used by the Cavaliers football team.
Appalachian State’s eighth-year baseball coach
remembers playing for Virginia pitching coach Karl Kuhn in
summer ball while on break from his playing days at Davidson
College. And he remembers coaching and battling for recruits
against Cavaliers assistant Kevin McMullan when McMullan was on
the staff at East Carolina.
On Sunday, Pollard’s Mountaineers were playing
the first in a series of games that will be labeled the biggest
in the program’s history. And against a school that he has so
many fond memories, his third-seeded Appalachian State squad
moved into the driver’s seat of the Charlottesville Regional by
scoring six early runs and holding on for dear life in a 6-5
squeaker over top-seeded Virginia.
“Now, to sit here in one of the nicest facilities
in the country, and to compete against a program that
perennially is an Omaha contender, it’s a great honor for us and
our team,” Pollard said. “It’s certainly if not the best, one of
the best staffs in the country. To able to be in the opposite
dugout from those guys and compete against those guys in this
atmosphere with what a great college baseball crowd this is, it
was just special.”
Mountaineers (41-16) stunned Virginia (39-18-1) and silenced its
crowd of 4,142 by scratching for one in the first and exploding
for five in the second.
It started badly for the Cavaliers when shortstop
Chris Taylor lost ASU leadoff man Hector Crespo’s high pop in
the sun, resulting in a double. After a sacrifice moved Crespo
to third, Will Callaway doubled down the left-field line for a
1-0 lead three batters into the game.
It quickly got worse, as the Mountaineers batted
around with five hits and five runs in the second. The big
inning started when Trey Holmes (3 for 4) singled and Preston
Troutman followed with a hit-and-run grounder in the hole at
second. Cavaliers second baseman Keith Werman made a slick play,
but starter Artie Lewicki (4-3) was late to cover first. As
Troutman beat the throw, Holmes kept running toward third, where
Lewicki misfired, allowing Holmes to score and Troutman to move
up to second. Noah Holmes then singled in Troutman for a 3-0
Later in the inning, designated hitter Daniel
Kassouf had a two-run single to right-center, and Tyler Tewell
plated another with a sac fly, making it 6-0.
“They hit in the clutch early in the game,”
Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor said. “They were very, very
aggressive and took the fight to us and got us back on our
Virginia spent the rest of the game trying to
claw back against Seth Grant (7-3) and the Mountaineers.
“Early in the game, it’s nice to see our guys go
out and swing the bats like that and be aggressive,” Grant said.
“It gives you a lot more confidence. When you get that big of
lead, your job is to go out there and throw strikes.”
The Cavaliers, who squandered chances by
stranding three in the second and two more in the third, got
three back in the fourth. Werman bunted in a run on a safety
squeeze, and Taylor singled in another run. Stephen Bruno made
it 6-3 with a grounder to short, where Callaway turned and fired
to nail Taylor trying to take third.
Taylor had a sacrifice fly as Virginia inched
closer in the sixth. Bruno’s leadoff single to open the seventh
chased Grant after six innings, six hits, five runs (four
earned) and four strikeouts – the fifth run came home on a balk
by reliever Ryne Frankoff. But Frankoff, who nearly was
redshirted by Pollard because of an early-season illness,
stranded two in the seventh and two more in the eighth, an
inning that opened with Crespo’s diving play at second to keep
Werman off base.
“I’m proud of our guys that we were able to crawl
back into it,” O’Connor said. “We just didn’t have enough to get
a couple more clutch hits and do what it takes to beat a good
ball club like they have.”
Pollard didn’t get a chance to see Frankoff
wiggle out of the eighth-inning jam after being ejected for
questioning third-base umpire John Bennett on a check-swing
third strike to end the seventh. He also didn’t get to see
closer Nathan Hyatt leave the game-tying run on second for his
16th save, one night after Hyatt’s ninth-inning implosion nearly
cost App State a win over Oklahoma – Pollard was on the team
bus listening to the game on the radio with the bus driver.
“I think a lot of people thought that we’d come
up here and just be happy being here,” Grant said. “We came here
and played our brand of baseball and stayed aggressive. If we
stay aggressive offensively and defensively, we have a pretty
good chance to win games.”
One more win, and Appalachian State will leave
Charlottesville with another fond memory for its coach and
another opportunity to win games, this time in a Super Regional
against two-time defending national champion South Carolina.