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What a day! Eagles hit NCAA record 14 homeruns

    Brian Pierce celebrated his 21st birthday with a three-run homer in the bottom of the second inning, and he didn’t party alone.  
    Eleven other Eagles joined the fun as Georgia Southern (9-7) combined for an NCAA single-game record 14 home runs, and knocked off the Columbia Lions (1-9) 26-8 Saturday at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    “It felt great,” said Pierce. “It was a great birthday present. It’s always fun when the whole team gets involved like that. To see guys that haven’t gotten to play as much come in and have success like that, that’s just awesome.”
    The Eagles had five pinch hitters — Will Southwell, David Richardson, Chris Banker, Jake Ware and Roman Grimaldi — go deep, along with seven starters. Richardson’s bomb in the bottom of the eighth tied the NCAA mark, and Banker’s solo shot — the Eagles’ third home run in a row — off the centerfield net set the record.
    “Just put Georgia Southern’s name down,” said Pierce.
     Griffin Benedict’s solo shot in the bottom of the seventh –— the third long ball of the inning — marked a new GSU record for homers in a single game (9). It didn’t end there. Southern hit eight total over the final two innings.
    Benedict (3-for-4, 3 R, BB) and Chris Shehan (4-for-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 4 R, HBP) each had two home runs on the day.
    The pace of the game was the polar opposite of the way things went for the Eagles in the series opener, where GSU went without a hit in each of the final six innings.
    “The biggest thing is we bounced back and got a win today,” said Eagle coach Rodney Hennon. “It was one of those crazy days. I’ve never seen anything like it with the wind blowing out there like it was. We got some balls up, and there’s not a whole lot you can say about it. Just one of those days.”
    Hennon was quick to point out how much the wind may have helped out on the record-setting afternoon.
    “I think the thing we’ve got to understand is that there were a few of those home runs obviously that were wind-blown,” said the Eagle coach. “It’s important right now –— we’ve taken a good approach all year offensively — we can’t all of a sudden start trying to lift balls. We’ve got to take the same approach we’ve been taking, and I think we did that today.”
    The stoppage of play in the top of the ninth when Graumauldi’s cap lifted off his head and traveled from third base to left field removed all doubt about the wind’s effect on the game.
    The only Columbia pitcher not to allow a hit was Matt Berninger, who relieved starter Joe Scarlata after he allowed 11 hits and 11 runs over 42⁄3 innings.
    Berninger came in with two outs and the bases empty after back-to-back long balls by Ty Wright and Shehan, and threw eight straight balls. After a wild pitch put the runners on second and third, a ball-four wild pitch to Jeremiah Parker allowed a run to score. Berninger attempted to intentionally walk Benedict, but threw it right past his catcher allowing Will Southwell to cross the plate.
    Berninger was pulled after 12-straight balls (four wild pitches) that resulted in two more Eagle runs.
    Georgia Southern starter Drew Murray (1-0) got the win going six innings, allowing five runs and striking out five.
    Columbia left fielder Jason Banos led the Lions from the plate, finishing 3-for-5 with a homer and two doubles, crossing the plate once and driving in three.
    The Lions return for game three this afternoon at 1:30 p.m., before wrapping up the four-game series Monday at 4 p.m. The Eagles conclude their 10-games-in-11-days stretch with a single game at Mercer Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Notes: The Eagles have won eight of their last 11 games. … GSU centerfielder Matt Miller remains on the bench and day-to-day after fouling a ball off his knee in Wednesday’s matchup against USC-Upstate. … Seven Eagles crossed the plate multiple times in Saturday’s win – Shehan (4), Benedict (3), Wright (3), Wirnsberger (3), Philip Porter (2), Southwell (2) and Pierce (2). … The Eagles hit back-to-back home runs four times in Saturday’s game, and five in six at-bats in the bottom of the eighth. … Shehan’s two home runs gave him a team-leading eight through 16 games this season.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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