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Errors doom Georgia Southern, KSU cruises in NCAA tournament

Errors doom Georgia Southern, KSU cruises in NCAA tournament

Errors doom Georgia Southern, KSU cruises in NCAA tournament

Kennesaw State and Georgia Southern c...


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After a pair of weather delays lasting over three hours, it was one fluky play that ultimately was the difference in the game.

A pickoff attempt turned into a pair of unearned runs and Kennesaw used them to force extra innings, where they scored eight unearned runs to beat Georgia Southern 13-5 in 11 innings on Saturday at Dick Howser Stadium on day two of the NCAA tournament.

With the fourth-seeded Eagles (40-22) leading 5-3 in the top of the sixth and a pair of KSU runners on base and GSU’s Jason Richman on the mound, play was suspended due to lightning and a downpour for 1 hour, 50 minutes.

RIchman remained on the mound after the delay, and rather than throwing a pitch to Kennesaw’s Jacob Bruce, Richman and shortstop Dalton Busby tried to pick Cornell Nixon off second base. The ball hit off Nixon’s foot as he slid back to second, and somehow shot into right-center, where GSU centerfielder Kody Adams slipped.

Nixon and Kal Simmons scored on the miscue to tie the game 5-5, and that was where the game remained as it moved into extra innings.

“Crazy play,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “In the postseason you see crazy things happen, and that was one of them. It was something Richman and Busby talked about, and I said, ‘Hey, let’s give it a shot.’ I wouldn’t have done it with just anybody, but those guys, I trust them in that situation.”

The Eagles committed three errors, and all but three of KSU’s 13 runs were earned. A booted ground ball in the top of the 11th extended the inning and ultimately led to an eight-run frame.

“I thought they swung the bat well tonight, and we did some things to help them,” Hennon said. “We made mistakes that hurt us, and when you do that against a good baseball team, they’re going to capitalize on it. And they did.”

The game started after a 75-minute rain delay, and it was all GSU in the early innings. For the second day in a row, the Eagles made quick work of a starting pitcher. Florida State’s Mike Compton made it 1.1 innings on Friday, and Kennesaw’s Jordan Hillyer didn’t get out of the first.

Hillyer allowed only one hit, but walked three Eagles and hit another as GSU plated four. Relief pitcher Nathan Harsh inherited the bases loaded and got a run-scoring fly ball by Chase Griffin and a Busby grounder to get KSU out of the first trailing 4-1.

The Owls plated a run in the first with a Bo Way RBI single, and added another in the fourth, with a sacrifice fly by Kal Simmons, after chasing GSU starter Josh Wirsu.

Harsh pitched zeros from the second through the fifth, until an RBI double by Hunter Thomas put the Eagles ahead 5-2.  

Kennesaw plated a run in the sixth before the rain delay on an RBI single by Simmons.

The Owls, winners of 25 of their last 26, need one more win to advance to the NCAA super regionals.

They will face the winner between Georgia Southern and No. 2 seed Alabama. The Crimson Tide will face the Eagles in an elimination game on Sunday at noon. The winner will have to beat KSU twocw -- once on SUnday afternoon and again on Monday evening -- to win the regional.

The Eagles won five-straight elimination games in the Southern Conference tournament on the way to a championship last week.

“We know what it’s like to have our backs against the wall,” Adams said.

“We’ve got to flush this pretty quick and focus on getting ready for Alabama,” Hennon added.

Alabama beat Florida State 6-5 on Saturday afternoon, marking the first time a national seed -- FSU was No. 5 overall in the country -- went 0-2 in a regional since San Diego State in 2007.

 

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

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