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A walkoff shutout

Brown homers in 9th for GSU win

A walkoff shutout

A walkoff shutout

Georgia Southern pitcher Sam Howard f...

    There was only one pitch thrown in the bottom of the ninth, and it was all Stryker Brown needed.
    The Georgia Southern left fielder ripped the inside fastball over the right field fence and propelled Georgia Southern to a 1-0 win over Western Carolina on Saturday at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    Sam Howard was masterful on the mound. The GSU senior pitched 8.2 innings, struck out 10 and walked only two. He allowed five hits.
    Howard has started on Saturday only twice this season, and has yet to allow a run, going 16.2 consecutive scoreless innings.
    “It’s worked pretty well so far,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said about the switch between Howard and Friday starter Josh Wirsu. “Sam’s been solid all year, but he’s been really good these last few weeks.”
    Western Carolina  (33-15, 17-5 Southern Conference) got a nearly equally impressive start from Jordan Smith (8-4), who threw a complete game in the loss and struck out five while allowing six hits.
    “Neither team threatened a lot, but when they did, both teams made pitches,” Hennon said.
    Howard got into a jam only twice.
    Western got runners on first and third with two outs in the fifth, but J.D. Long grounded out to third.
In the seventh, the Catamounts loaded the bases with two outs, and Howard showed off some hustle. Dylan Prevatte lined one back up the middle and it hit Howards glove, rolling 10 feet behind the mound. Howard sprinted for it and somehow got it to first to record the out, to the dismay of the WCU dugout.
    “It’s funny, a lot of my teammates were saying, ‘That’s the play you mess around with in practice.’ I’ll get out here and I’ll have them hit one there, just messing around with that side-arm throw,” Howard said.
    The Eagles (32-20, 14-12) got runners to second and third in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but Garrett Chapman struck out and Dalton Busby popped out to end the threat.
    Howard retired the final two batters he faced in the top of the ninth, and Matt McCall recorded the final out with a strikeout after walking the first batter he faced, to earn the win.
When Howard came out in the ninth, he had a message for the dugout.
    “I came out and I told everybody, ‘Alright, I believe in y’all. Let win this thing.’ When the ball left (Brown’s) bat, I knew it was gone. I was already running out onto the field.”
    Brown, who finished 2-for-4, fought from behind in the count all day. He used that to his advantage on the walkoff homer.
    “They were busting me in all night, working fastballs at my hands,” Brown said. “They beat me with it a few times, so I figured they were going to come back to it. I tried to cheat a little bit, and I got what I was looking for.”
    He was mobbed at home plate.
    “That was awesome, awesome,” Brown said.
    The GSU win snapped a seven-game winning streak for the first-place Catamounts. The rubber match of the series takes place today at 1:30 p.m.

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

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