BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State’s baseball team delivered a Boone blanking.
Playing a midweek home game on a 75-degree day at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium, the Mountaineers won 2-0 against North Carolina A&T thanks to a three-hit shutout from four pitchers, including starter Brandon Boone (3-4).
Boone, the starting pitcher in both of App State’s shutouts this season, struck out six batters and allowed two singles (with one bunt hit) in six scoreless innings. Kaleb Bowman and Andrew Papp threw a scoreless inning apiece before turning the game over to senior closer Luke Watts, who allowed an infield hit while moving into seventh place on the school’s single-season list with his seventh save of 2018. The Sun Belt Conference leader with 20 games finished this year, Watts has lowered his ERA to 2.43 by allowing no earned runs over 15.0 innings in his last 14 appearances.
Appalachian (13-31) broke a scoreless tie with two away in the fifth inning, when Alex Leshock hit an RBI triple to right-center to score Kendall McGowan, who had singled with one out, and CJ Brown drilled an RBI single to left to bring home Leshock.
“With one walk and two hits in six innings, Brandon was fantastic on the mound,” App State head coach Kermit Smith said. “You tip your cap to Brandon, Kaleb, Andrew and Luke. They’ve all been really good for us this year, and that was on display for nine innings today. Runs were tough to come by, but we got two huge two-out hits when we really needed them.”
Boone also pitched six scoreless innings in mid-March, combining with Bowman and Watts to strike out 12 batters in a 6-0 road win against North Carolina Central. With Papp joining the mix, App State’s pitchers combined for eight strikeouts Wednesday while allowing just the one clean hit to the outfield by the Aggies (24-21).
App State gave up three hits or less in a shutout win for the first time since a 4-0 victory against Stony Brook in March 2016, and Boone is the first Appalachian pitcher to start two team shutouts in the same season since Taylor Thurber did so in 2015.
Boone recorded three perfect innings and twice stranded a runner at second base before the Mountaineers broke through with their two-run fifth. McGowan singled up the middle and later scored on a hit into the right-center gap from Leshock. Batting at the top of the order for the first time, Brown extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a line-drive single to left.
Boone again stranded a runner at second base in the sixth inning, posting back-to-back swinging strikeouts after North Carolina A&T’s Greg White singled with one out and stole second. Bowman needed only seven pitches to complete the top half of the seventh inning, and Papp had one strikeout in a nine-pitch eighth.
Watts opened the ninth inning with a strikeout and allowed an infield hit, but shortstop Joel McDaniel, second baseman Bailey Welch and first baseman Conner Leonard combined on a game-ending double play. Watts hasn’t allowed a run in 21 of his 24 appearances this season.
Leshock accounted for two of the six hits by App State, which could have moved ahead 4-0 in the seventh inning if McDaniel’s two-out bloop hit down the left-field line had been ruled fair.
The Mountaineers return to action Friday with the start of a three-game Sun Belt series at UT Arlington (21-24, 11-10).