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Eagles prepare for No. 19 Tech

It was good to get that out of the way.

After a tough start in the season-opening, 8-6, extra-inning loss to George Washington, the Georgia Southern Eagles came alive, pitching back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2000 and capping it all off with an 18-0 win in Sunday’s series finale.

Now, the Eagles (2-1) will jump right into a two-game set with No. 19 Georgia Tech.

"It was good to go out and put a complete game together," said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. "It was good for our hitters to loosen up and start to swing the bats with some confidence. Some of that started in Saturday’s game and carried into Sunday."

Six new faces got at least one at-bat in the series against GWU, led by catcher Tom Richardson who knocked a pair of doubles in 10 tries.

Richardson and Jessee Piccolo spent time behind the plate, Piccolo and Andy Moye got a bulk of the work at third and the Eagles sent five different players into the outfield.

"They all handled themselves well out there," Hennon said about the first-year players. "They should all get better as we go. They’ll get more comfortable and more confident the more they play this season. We were able to really play everybody."

Steve Cochrane, freshman Ben Morgan and Eric Phillips got a bulk of the work at first, second and shortstop respectively, but there are a number of jobs that are still up for grabs.

"It’s still going to be day-to-day right now," said Hennon. "The more we play some of that will be a little more defined."

Georgia Southern tallied 14 extra-base hits in the series, including home runs by Vicror Roache and Eric Phillips. Roache hit a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth on Friday and his third-career grand slam in the second inning on Sunday.

The mound saw 13 different pitchers getting work. The team ERA after the opening series sits at 0.96, and only two pitchers — Friday starter Chris Beck and reliever Justin Hess — were tagged with earned runs.

Lefty Jarret Leverett, who faced six batters and allowed two hits in the 10th inning of Friday’s loss, will get the start against Georgia Tech (2-1). Wednesday’s starter, like the rest of the lineup, has yet to be determined.

"We’re just trying to win the next game," said Hennon. We did that this past weekend, we’ll do that with Georgia Tech and we’ll do that throughout the year — just try to focus on what we’ve got to do to win the next one that’s in front of us."

Centerfielder Shawn Payne likely solidified the leadoff role after roping three doubles, driving in five runs, scoring five times, swiping a pair of bases and drawing five walks while finishing the series 6-for-12.

Georgia Tech enters the mid-week set after taking the first two games of the season over Kent State before dropping the series finale 6-1 Sunday.

The Yellow Jackets have some question marks of their own, but their strength early in the season is on the mound. They averaged five runs per game but allowed only three in the first two games against Kent State.

"I think going into the year, that’s probably what most people felt like would be the strength of their team," Hennon said about Georgia Tech’s pitching. "They’re always going to bring a talented bunch down here, but there are a lot of new faces in the lineup compared to what we’ve seen the last couple of years."

The Yellow Jackets swept four games against GSU in 2010 after splitting the series 2-2 in 2009. The last time the Eagles defeated Tech was a 23-3 win on April 8, 2009 in Atlanta.

 

Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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