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GSU opens SoCon play with rival Furman

    Georgia Southern baseball coach Rodney Hennon has spent a lot of time this spring harping on consistency.
    And so far, the 16-9 Eagles have responded.
    Georgia Southern started its season by winning eight of its first 10 games, including seven straight. The Eagles then lost four in a row — a slide that now looks like a mere hiccup after GSU bounced back and swept Lipscomb at home last weekend. The Eagles will look to continue their upswing tonight at 7 p.m. when they commence Southern Conference play with a weekend series against Furman at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    “I like the way we are playing right now,” Hennon said. “I think we’ve been a pretty consistent baseball team for the most part. We have had one bad week on the season — that four-game stretch where we were up at Kennesaw during the middle of the week and at a tournament in Dothan. Since then, we’ve been a pretty consistent baseball team.”
    The Eagles have a .963 fielding percentage, are batting .319 as a team and have five starters averaging over .300, led by third baseman Chris Shehan (.359, five home runs, 30 RBIs and 29 runs scored).
    As for pitching, Georgia Southern’s staff is stronger than it was a year ago and currently has a team earned run average of 4.42. The Eagles have found stability in their bullpen and with several reliable starters, most notably true freshman Brian Wilkerson (4-2, 3.57) and sophomore transfer Drew Murray (3-3, 3.00 ERA, 40 strikeouts). Wilkerson is scheduled to start tonight, Murray will get the ball Saturday and senior transfer John Ducey will take the mound Sunday. Saturday and Sunday’s games are slated for 1:30 p.m.
    “One thing that has been pretty steady for us as of late is our pitching and defense,” Hennon said. “We’ve faced some very good pitching, especially during spring break. Our pitching and defense have kept us in those ballgames even when we didn’t swing the bats quite as well.”
    As a team, Furman is batting .279 and has a 5.86 ERA but has struggled to string wins together. The Paladins (5-14) have lost 10 of their last 12 and were swept by Austin Peay at home last weekend before defeating Gardner-Webb 14-9 Wednesday. The Eagles, who are 11-1 at home this year, aren’t judging Furman by its lackluster record.
    “They’ve got some guys who have had success there,” Hennon said. “I’m sure they are going to come in ready to play hard.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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