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Originally published: 2014-03-23 22:09:10
Last modified: 2014-03-25 21:05:57

Mountaineers take third game of series from Cats

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Appalachian State softball coach Shae Wesley knows that designated player Ashley Best can hit the ball, despite Best's .138 batting average going into the Mountaineers' home game against Southern Conference rival Western Carolina on Sunday.

"She's been really hot in practice," Wesley said. "It just hasn't transitioned into a game and we knew it was coming."

Best crashed out of her slump by hitting back-to-back home runs in Appalachian State's 7-4 victory over the Catamounts at Sywassink/Lloyd Family Stadium Sunday.

Appalachian State (11-16, 3-2 SoCon) took two out of three games from Western Carolina (13-18, 3-3). The Mountaineers won the first game of a Saturday doubleheader 6-2, but lost the second game 5-0.

Both teams finished with 12 hits on Sunday. Appalachian State and Western Carolina were set down in order just once each all game, and Western Carolina put at least two runners on base in five other innings.

"Our goal is that we were shooting for a sweep, and after a split yesterday, I'm really proud of the team to come back and get the series today," Wesley said.

Best hit a solo shot in the second inning and added a two-run blast in the third inning that went well over the left-centerfield fence. Her average improved to .293 after going 2-for-3 Sunday.

Her second home run gave the Mountaineers a 6-2 lead that pitchers Sydney Laws and Shivaun Landeros managed to preserve despite some nervous moments in the final three innings.

It was the third time in her softball career she has hit two home runs in a game. She also did it during the fall season, and once in high school.

"I was seeing it really well and coach helped me a lot with taking my hands to the ball," Best said. "Sometimes you're hitting and sometimes you're not. You've just got to keep working and we've been working since the beginning of fall to get my swing where it needs to be."

Appalachian State needed some solid defense and pitching to preserve its four-run lead. Western Carolina scored two runs in the fifth inning to pull to 6-4. But Landeros, who came on in relief of Laws with runners on first and third base, struck out Courtney Price to end the threat.

Western Carolina had loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but got a double play when Karley Harkey hit a sharp ground ball to Landeros. She got the ball to catcher Sarah Warnock, who threw to first baseman Lindsay Loudermilk at first base to get out of the inning.

Western Carolina loaded the bases again in the seventh, but could not push across a run. The Catamounts ended up leaving 10 runners on base.

"They were in the ballgame right up to the last out," Wesley said. "They are a fantastic hitting team and it just takes one hitter to put one out and we have a very hitter-friendly park. It's any person's game at any time here."

Appalachian State did a better job of taking advantage of its scoring opportunities, particularly in the second and third innings. After Best's first home run, Cynthia Gomez and Cara Parker hit back-to-back doubles in the second inning that gave the Mountaineers a 4-2 lead.

Ashley Seering drove in Sarah Warnock with an RBI single in the first inning, and Parker drove in Dani Heichen in the sixth with a sacrifice fly.

Best, Gomez and Parker each had two hits for Appalachian State.

Laws (3-5) scattered 10 hits and struck out four Catamounts in 4 2/3 innings. Two of the four runs she gave up were earned. Landeros struck out three and walked three.

Western Carolina starter Jordan Garrett lasted one inning before being pulled after Best's first home run and a follow-up single by Whitney Johnson. Courtney Buchanan scattered eight hits and gave up five earned runs in five innings.

Buchanan had much more success against the Mountaineers Saturday in the Catamounts' victory. She gave up two hits and no runs against an App State offense that finished with just three hits in the game.

Garrett pitched six innings in Appalachian State's win in game one of the series. She gave up five hits and six earned runs, while striking out six.

Landeros tossed a complete game to get the win. She gave up six hits, struck out seven and walked four.

Warnock opened the Mountaineers' first inning with a solo home run. App State scored three unearned runs in the third inning, and two more runs in the fourth on a home run by Caroline Rogers. It was her first of the season.

Appalachian State, after going 4-2 in its last six games -- all at home -- returns to the road this week. The Mountaineers play at North Carolina Central on Wednesday, and then play a three-game Southern Conference series at Samford Saturday and Sunday.