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Eagles collapse in Cullowhee

CULLOWHEE, N.C. — Georgia Southern jumped out to an early lead but Western Carolina scored eight unanswered runs, as the Eagles dropped an 8-3 decision Friday night (May 19) at Hennon Stadium. With the loss Georgia Southern (32-26 overall, 12-14 Southern Conference) enters the regular season finale needing a win to keep out of the SoCon Tournament play-in game. Appalachian State and The Citadel pulled out wins Friday night, so the Eagles enter the final game needing to win and have Furman defeat The Citadel to finish among the top six. The top six seeds receive a first round bye in next week’s SoCon Tournament. Griffin Benedict (Dunwoody/St. Pius) and Matt Miller (Canton/Woodstock) hit back-to-back singles with one out in the first inning. Two batters later Justin Klinger (Hatfield, PA/North Penn) lined a 1-2 pitch over the head of left fielder Jonathan Greene, plating both runners for a 2-0 lead. The Catamounts threatened in the third as Barrett Shaft and Blake Murphy singled to start the inning. Brian Wilkerson (Bonaire/Houston County) got a flyball, strikeout and fielder’s choice to end the threat. Klinger hit his first career triple to start the fourth but Drew Saberhagen got three infield popups to get out of the inning. John Ingram walked to start the fourth then Nick Liles doubled to put both runners in scoring position with no one out. Will Southwell (Moultrie/Colquitt County) made a diving stop on a hot shot to not only keep the runners from scoring but record the first out. Brent Greer lifted a flyball to right fielder Chris Shehan (Strasburg, PA/Lampeter-Strasburg). The sophomore made the catch and fired home. The ball bounced short of the catcher Benedict but Ingram was ruled out and ejected when he collided with Benedict to end the inning. Another key two-out hit in the fifth extended the Eagles’ lead to 3-0. Benedict singled with two outs and scored on Miller’s 20th double of the year. Western got a leadoff single from Shaft in the fifth then with one out Steven Strasburg and Kenny Smith walked to load the bases. Wilkerson settled down, striking out Jonathan Greene and Donnie Wilson to end the threat. Liles got his third hit of the game to start the sixth. Adam Baker hit a 2-run homer to chase Wilkerson. Drew Murray (LaGrange/LaGrange) gave up a single. Two batter later Murphy lined a RBI double to tie the game. The defense would later fall apart, as two errors on the same play allowed two runs to score. In all the Catamounts scored six runs to take a 6-3 lead. Smith added a 2-run single with two outs in the seventh for the final margin. Murray suffered the loss, dropping to 4-7. He allowed three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning. A.J. Battisto (Pottstown, PA/Pottsgrove) gave up one hit and struck out three in 1.2 innings. Benedict scored two runs and finished with three hits while Klinger and Miller added two hits each. Saberhagen (8-1) won his eighth straight decision, giving up three runs on seven hits in six innings. Brock Thornburg gave up one hit in three innings to earn his first save. Shaft and Liles had three hits apiece while Smith drove in three runs. First pitch for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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