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Appalacian State blasts off on Eagles
GS baseball
Appalachian State's Connor Leonard, left, gets a big welcome from the dugout after hitting the fourth home run of the third inning against Georgia Southern at J. I. Clements Stadium Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff


   
    Georgia Southern pitching had just one bad inning in Friday night’s game against Appalachian State.
    Unfortunately, that was one too many.
    Appalachian State launched three home runs off of GS starter Brian Eichhorn and another off of Evan Challenger en route to a 7-run top of the third. The Mountaineers held tight the rest of the way, earning a 7-3 victory to even the conference series at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    “We made some mistakes and they hurt us,” GS coach Rodney Hennon said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They out-hit us and out-pitched us tonight. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and come back in the next one.”
    Following a solid Thursday night win, the Eagles (22-13, 8-6 Sun Belt) took an early lead when Mason McWhorter drove in Tyler Martin on a sacrifice fly to gain a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
    But in the top of the third, the wheels came flying off.
    Eagle starter Brian Eichhorn allowed a pair of singles to begin the third and then watched as Tyler Stroup launched a three-run home run to give the Mountaineers (13-22, 4-10) a 3-1 lead. Two pitches later, Matt Brill homered to center. Avery Jackson followed with a shot down the left field line to make it back-to-back-to-back home runs for Appalachian State.
    That chased Eichhorn from the contest and brought on Evan Challenger. The Eagle lefty retired the first batter he faced, but ultimately fell victim to the Mountaineers’ big inning as he gave up a single before Connor Leonard homered to left for a 7-1 ASU lead.
    “Brian made some great pitches in the first two innings,” Hennon said. “He threw the ball well, but (Appalachian) took advantage of the mistakes. I say it all the time - hitting is contagious. They fed off of that tonight.”
    Challenger finally got the Eagles out of the third and settled in from there, pitching through the seventh inning and striking out seven without allowing any more damage on the scoreboard.
    Unfortunately for the Eagles, App’s one big inning was more than enough for Mountaineer starter Colin Schmid. The App State lefty found his groove early and consistently pitched around Georgia Southern bats. The Eagles are hitting for a much higher team average this season and have been taking good swings lately, but Schmid had their number, fanning 13 while allowing just four hits in his seven innings of work.
    In all, Eagle batters fanned 18 times on the night as Reed Howell recorded the final six out for the Mountaineers to earn his fifth save of the season.
    McWhorter revived the Eagles’ spirits with an opposite field shot to left off of Schmid in the seventh and Mitchell Golden added an RBI single in the eighth, but Georgia Southern never posed an imminent threat to get back into contention.
    “We never really pressured them until late in the game,” Hennon said. “When you punch out that many times, it’s hard to put that pressure on. What’s done is done and you can’t change it. The key now is to come out tomorrow and be ready to do better.”
    Chase Cohen will get the nod today as the Eagles try to claim the series against their rivals from North Carolina. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.