GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Nate Smith pitched 7 2/3 innings of strong baseball to propel Furman past Appalachian State, 3-1, in the opening game of a Southern Conference baseball series Friday afternoon at Latham Stadium.
The victory was the fourth straight for Furman (11-3, 3-1 SoCon) and gave the Paladins their best start to a baseball season since Furman's 1926 squad went 13-1 through its first 14 games. It also halted a string of five consecutive regular season losses to Appalachian State (7-3, 2-2 SoCon).
Smith (1-0), a senior left-hander, earned the win after allowing a run on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven. He surrendered three straight singles to load the bases in the eighth with two outs before being relieved by Ben Carson, who ended the threat by striking out ASU's Jailyn Davis. In the ninth Carlson pitched around a couple of singles by fanning the Mountaineers' William Head to end the game and notch his second save.
Appalachian State starting pitcher Jamie Nunn (3-1) suffered the loss but also threw effectively, working seven innings and giving up seven hits, three runs, two of which were earned, and two walks. He struck out six.
Furman took advantage of two Mountaineer errors in the second to open the scoring. Chris Ohmstede reached on a throwing error and then came around to score on Jarrod Rickman's single to center field, which skipped under the glove of ASU's Davis for the inning's second miscue.
ASU tied it at 1-1 in the fourth after Will Callaway led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout, and then scored on a Davis single to second base.
It remained tied until the Furman sixth when the Paladins tallied twice against Nunn. Hunter Burton walked to lead off, stole second, and scored on a Taylor Johnson double that bounced off the top of the fence in left center field and back into play. Johnson moved to third on Paul Nitto's single up the middle and came home on a fielder's choice grounder off Alex Abrams' bat for a 3-1 lead.
Smith retired the Mountaineers in order in the seventh and got the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Alex Leach stroked a 1-2 pitch through the right side. Callaway followed with a solid single through the left side, and Noah Holmes loaded the bases with a base hit to second, leading to Smith's exit. Carlson came on and doused the threat by fanning Davis looking.
Smith threw 107 pitches in the contest, 79 of which were strikes.
Hunter Burton and Rickman both went 2-for-3 for Furman, which finished with seven hits. Paul Nitto's single in the sixth extended his SoCon leading hitting streak to 22 games.
ASU managed five of their 10 hits in the final two frames but no runs. Callaway went 3-for-4 with a double to lead the Mountaineers, who also got two hits apiece from Davis and Hector Crespo, who singled and set a new Appalachian State career stolen base standard in the first inning with his 86th steal.
Saturday's game between Furman and Appalachian State is a 4:00 p.m. start.
(Photo courtesy of Wayne Rickman)