Eagle Baseball was held to three hits in an opening night loss and trailed Middle Tennessee State 6-0 with just two hits to its name Saturday afternoon.
And then the fun started.
Georgia Southern scored a pair in the bottom of the seventh, rallied for four more in the ninth to force extra innings and finally walked off on a Mason McWhorter single in the tenth to record an improbable 7-6 victory and its first win of the 2017 season.
In the 10th, Mitchell Golden started things for the Eagles (1-1) with a line drive single to left. Golden advanced to second on a wild pitch by Carter Blair and took third on another wild pitch as Cal Baker drew a walk.
That brought up the freshman, McWhorter, who had singled as a pinch-hitter during the ninth inning. McWhorter got a fastball over the plate and lined it into the right center gap, driving in the winning run and unleashing the Eagle bench into shallow right field to chase him down with congratulations.
“It was a blur,” McWhorter said. “All I remember after the hit is the water being thrown at me. I’m soaked.
“When I got up, (Blair) wasn’t controlling his offspeed well, so I was just sitting on a fastball.”
The walk-off celebration was little more than a daydream just an inning before.
The Eagles trailed 6-2 in the ninth inning, but got a shot of life when Tyler Martin teed off on an A.J. Spencer offering, clearing the left field wall for a solo shot. Golden then singled and - following a pop out - McWhorter entered the game and ripped a single up the middle to chase Spencer from the game.
Caleb Smith came on in relief, only to walk Evan MacDonald on four pitches to load the bases. Smith bounced back to strike out Logan Baldwin, but the game’s potential final out then stepped to the plate in the form of Ryan Cleveland.
The Eagles’ cleanup hitter worked a full count and — with the runners moving — laced a line drive into the right field corner to tie the game.
“Early in the count, I was thinking about swinging hard, but I got offspeed pitches,” Cleveland said. “Once it got to two strikes, I was just trying to make sure I put it in play.”
“I knew we still had a chance,” GS coach Rodney Hennon said. “With everybody moving on a 3-2 pitch, we just wanted Cleveland to barrel one up.”
All in all, the final few innings of Saturday’s game for Georgia Southern played quite the Jekyll to the Hyde of the previous game and a half of action.
The Eagles were unable to capitalize in some critical spots on Friday night, failing to get big hits after repeatedly getting batters on base via walks and MTSU errors. On Saturday, the Raiders weren’t conceding even those as starter Tyler Hasper cruised through six innings of work, striking out 11 Eagles as he went.
“He was dominating us with one pitch,” Hennon said. “His fastball was getting us. But I give our guys credit. We kept battling. We stayed in the game and - when we got a good at-bat or two - the hitting got contagious.”
Aside from the offensive outburst, Hennon also credited the GS pitching staff.
Starter Jacob Condra-Bogan was up and down in surrendering three runs in four innings of work and freshman Seth Shuman - last seen in the fall as a backup quarterback for the Eagles - struck out four in his debut before running into trouble in his 2.1 innings of work.
After Shuman’s exit, Zach Cowart entered the game and struck out four in 2.2 perfect innings of relief leading up to the offense’s ninth-inning heroics.
“Those are the little things that matter,” Hennon said. “Zach did a great job just to get us to the point where we could be in the position to come back. That was key for us tonight and I hope that is a big boost for his confidence moving forward.”
Georgia Southern and Middle Tennessee will go it it one more time today as first pitch of the rubber match is slated for 1 p.m. Sophomore right-hander Chase Cohen is scheduled to make his first start of the season for the Eagles.