BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State took a first-inning lead and pulled even on Joel McDaniel’s two-run homer in the fourth inning, but a four-run fifth propelled Little Rock to a 12-6 victory Sunday at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium.
App State matched its highest-scoring output in a loss this season, as McDaniel homered for the second straight day, Kendall McGowan added a solo homer to highlight a 2-for-5 performance and Drew Beck went 2-for-5 with a two-run single to close a series in which he was 5-for-12 with five RBIs and two doubles.
The Mountaineers (12-31, 4-17) totaled 26 hits in the three-game Sun Belt series, which included a 7-6 home win Saturday.
After retiring App State Director of Track & Field and Cross Country John Weaver threw out the first pitch to full-time Director of Athletics and part-time catcher Doug Gillin, Will Sprinkle tossed a scoreless first inning and the Mountaineers went ahead on Beck’s two-out, two-run single to left. His hit brought home Conner Leonard (two-out walk) and Riley Smith (two-out double).
Little Rock (23-19, 12-8) led off the second inning with a home run and scored two unearned runs in the third inning, as back-to-back errors to begin the frame included a play in which the first-base umpire ruled that Leonard’s foot left the bag as he stretched to catch a throw.
The Trojans went ahead 4-2 in the fourth, but CJ Brown’s one-out walk put a runner on base for McDaniel, who homered to left.
Little Rock’s four-run fifth featured two controversial plays. Multiple Mountaineers pointed in the “foul” direction after Beck’s entire body ended up a few feet into foul territory as he tried to make a diving stop near third base on a ball that was ruled fair for a leadoff double.
With two on and nobody out, Riley Pittman greeted new pitcher Andrew Papp with a flyball to center. Brown, the right fielder, sprinted into the picture and cut in front of center fielder Alex Leshock, who actually made a basket catch near his shins despite on-field confusion as to whether the ball hit the ground or not.
Leshock threw to second base to potentially get a forceout in the case of a non-catch or, in the case of a catch, double-up the runner who had been on second when the play began. After an umpires meeting in which the advancing runner appeared to briefly be signaled out, he stayed at third base and was credited with tagging up on the flyout.
Nick Perez followed that sequence with a tiebreaking three-run homer — the celebration and reaction to the celebration caused the umpires to issue warnings to both teams — and Ryan Benavidez’s solo homer in the next at-bat gave the Trojans an 8-4 lead.
Little Rock added an unearned run in the seventh before Leonard’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh and McGowan’s home run in the bottom of the eighth cut App State’s deficit to 9-6 entering the ninth.
The Mountaineers return to action Wednesday with a 5 p.m. home game against North Carolina A&T, and they’ll be in Texas next weekend for a Sun Belt road series at UT Arlington.