Kendall McGowan gave Appalachian State a first-inning boost with a two-run homer, and starting pitcher Brandon Boone made the lead hold up with seven strong innings in a 5-1 victory at Radford on Tuesday night.
Boone enjoyed the longest outing of his brief career as the Mountaineers (7-19) improved to 4-1 in midweek road games this season. He struck out six batters and allowed one run on four hits, with the only damage coming on a solo homer with two outs in the fourth inning.
Boone (2-2) lowered his ERA in a starting role to 3.10 before giving way to senior reliever Luke Watts, who pitched two scoreless innings.
McGowan (2-for-5, two RBIs) and Joel McDaniel (2-for-2, double) led an App State offense that finished with seven hits. Beau Myers pushed the lead to 3-0 with a sacrifice fly, Alex Leshock (1-for-4) had the final two RBIs and Conner Leonard (1-for-3) scored twice.
“A really complete win,” App State head coach Kermit Smith said. “It started with Kendall’s home run and Brandon Boone’s outing. Any time you can jump out to an early lead and then get seven strong out of your starter, you have to feel good about that.
“You have to point to Beau’s sac fly and Leshock’s two two-out RBIs as key points in the game, as well. I’m proud of our guys. We need to take this momentum into the weekend.”
The Mountaineers went to work immediately, with Bailey Welch delivering a one-out double into the right-field corner in the top of the first inning and moving to third on a fielding error. McGowan, who served as App State’s designated hitter, drove an 0-1 pitch over the left-field fence for his second career homer.
App State moved ahead 4-0 with a two-run fourth, as walks to Riley Smith, Leonard and McDaniel loaded the bases with one out. Myers brought home Smith with a sacrifice fly to center, and Leshock’s single to right field allowed Leonard to score.
Appalachian capped the scoring with a run in the eighth, when Leshock drew a bases-loaded walk to complete a two-out rally. Leonard and McDaniel singled with two away before Myers was hit by a pitch.
After the two-out homer by Radford’s Matt Roth in the fourth inning, Boone retired nine of the last 11 batters he faced. A strikeout began a perfect fifth, and the only blemish in the sixth was a two-out infield single in which Richard De la Cruz beat Boone to first as he covered the bag on a bouncing ball to Leonard. Smith promptly threw out De la Cruz on a steal attempt.
Boone recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh, with Leonard producing the second out by making a foul-territory catch as he collided with the brick wall beyond the first-base dugout. Boone followed a walk with another strikeout and was congratulated by his teammates as he returned to the dugout.
Watts had three strikeouts and stranded five baserunners over the final two innings.
Radford (10-17) loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but Leonard fielded a high chopper toward first and threw home to Smith for a forceout before Watts induced an inning-ending groundout to Drew Beck at third.
Watts followed a leadoff single in the ninth with two strikeouts, and the Highlanders had two runners in scoring position after a two-out single was misplayed. A lineout to Myers in left ended the game.
The Mountaineers return to action Friday, when they are scheduled to host Troy in the opening game of their first Sun Belt Conference home series of the season.