One win from SoCon baseball title, Citadel will face Elon in Sunday final

Photo by Richard Shiro The Citadel players celebrate after Hughston Armstrong made the game-ending catch on Saturday against Appalachian State during the Southern Conference baseball tournament.

GREENVILLE -- Mason Davis provided the early wake-up call on the sixth pitch of the game, and The Citadel never trailed today in securing a spot in the Southern Conference tournament championship game.

Davis led off an 8-6 victory over Appalachian State at Fluor Field with a home run, and drove in two runs for the 35-24 Bulldogs, who will play for their ninth SoCon tournament title Sunday.

The Citadel, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, will take on No. 3 Elon at 2 p.m. Elon knocked off Georgia Southern twice on Saturday to earn its berth in the final. The game will be shown on ESPN3, and the winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA baseball regionals.

The Citadel lost two of three to Elon during the season, winning by 14-7 and losing 8-5 and 8-6.

App State, the No. 5 seed, ends its final season in the SoCon with a 30-24 record. The Mountaineers, headed to the Sun Belt, went 0-7 against The Citadel this year in football, basketball and baseball.

Hughston Armstrong made a diving catch in right-center and doubled off an App State runner to end the game, and Citadel players rushed to center field to mob him in celebration.

With a 10 a.m. start, Davis woke up the morning crowd with a home run on a 3-2 pitch to start the game, and App State starter Jeffrey Springs didn’t make it out of the first inning. He needed 42 pitches to get two outs, but not before an RBI single by Calvin Orth and a bases-loaded walk to Bailey Rush gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

The Citadel added on in the second, scoring two runs on singles by Davis, Hughston Armstrong, Joe Jackson and Bo Thompson, with help of an App State error.

App State sliced the Bulldogs’ lead to 5-2 in the third on Will Callaway’s two-run single.

Citadel sophomore Kevin Connell, making his first start of the season, gave the Bulldogs 3 2/3 innings and left with a 5-2 lead, runners on second and third and two out. Zach Sherrill, making his school-record 47th appearance, got out of that jam to preserve the lead.

The Citadel scored twice in the sixth on four straight singles, including a bunt single by Armstrong and an RBI single by Jackson, and a hit batter for a 7-3 lead.

App State got to within 7-6 on No. 9 hitter Josh Zumbrook’s three-run homer to left-center in the sixth.

The Bulldogs got one back in the seventh as Rush doubled, moved to third on sac bunt and beat the throw home from first on Davis’ nubber back to the mound.

Trailing 8-6 in the eighth, App State got runners to second and third with one out before reliever David Rivera struck out Noah Holmes and Will Callaway, both on checked-swing third strikes.