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Eagles take aim at SoCon tourney

Eagles take aim at SoCon tourney

Eagles take aim at SoCon tourney

Georgia Southern first baseman T.D. D...

    Georgia Southern is opening the 2013 Southern Conference tournament the same way the regular season ended — by facing College of Charleston.
    The seventh-seeded Eagles will hope for better results this time around.
    Georgia Southern (25-30, 13-17 SoCon) will face the Cougars on the heels of last weekend's three-game sweep. The teams will meet in Greenville, S.C., in the tournament's late, opening-day game, which is scheduled today at 8:30 p.m.
    The tournament takes place at Fluor Field.
    The second-seeded Cougars (31-24, 18-11) have had a different look this season. A program known for power at the plate, Charleston has gotten it done this year with pitching and defense.
    "Over the years they've been really offensive. Their pitching this year has been their strength," GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. "They pitched well pretty much the entire season. They've had some really gaudy numbers in the past, and this year they're around .265, a little above us, but it's a good Charleston club."
    Hennon is at risk for his first sub-30-win season and first losing record as a head coach.
    The regular season ended on a seven-game losing streak, GSU's longest since 2007, so Hennon is much more concerned with the team than his personal records.
    "It's not something I've talked to the team about," Hennon said about his 15-straight, 30-plus-win seasons. "I want these kids to experience winning a championship, and we still have an opportunity to do that. Obviously, the regular season (didn't go) the way we would have liked for it to have gone. We got off to a great start, we've struggled for the last month, and that's no secret. You can't get worried about numbers."
    Hennon has stressed the little things leading to the tournament — getting on base, scoring from third with less than two outs, bunting and timely hitting.
    "That's the formula to make a run and win a conference tournament," he said. "All I can focus on and try to do is to do the best job I can of getting these guys ready to make a run in Greenville. As frustrating as it's been at times, we still have a chance to make that happen, and that's where I'm focusing my energy."
    The winner of GSU's game with Charleston will face the winner between No. 3 Elon and No. 6 Furman on Thursday at either 5 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. The losers will play Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
    Western Carolina (38-18, 23-7) ran away with the No. 1 seed of the tournament, finishing the regular season four-and-a-half games in front of second-place Charleston. Only six games separate the second through eighth seeds.
    Hennon hasn't put much thought into the way the bracket took shape.
    "I think there's so much parity, I don't know if it's going to factor in a whole lot," Hennon said. "We're kind of bunched together. Obviously, Western has been a notch better than everybody else the rest of the season, and they've got to be the favorite, but outside of that I don't think there's a whole lot of difference among the teams in our league. It's whoever gets good pitching and plays well on a given day."

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

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