The Georgia Southern bats spent the first two weekends of the season seemingly still in winter hibernation. Facing an old rival Tuesday night, that offensive drought ended in a big way.
Squaring off against College of Charleston, the Eagles scored six runs in the first inning and built a 13-0 lead before the Cougars could scratch the scoreboard. In the end, Georgia Southern waltzed out of J.I. Clements Stadium with a 14-7 victory and a 4-4 record to start the season.
“It was good to see us finally bust loose on offense,” GS coach Rodney Hennon said. “Steven Curry set the tone right out of the gate and we kept swinging it well.”
Ryan Cleveland launched his first home run of the season - a bomb just to the left of the newly installed ‘Blue Monster’ - in the third inning to push the GS lead to 10-0. The blast came off of Cougar reliever Will Detwiler, who allowed four runs and five hits in 2.1 innings of work.
Detwiler was the first Charleston reliever out of the bullpen, entering the game with two outs in the first inning. Cougar starter Max McKinley, who was in trouble from the first pitch.
McKinley allowed a first-pitch, leadoff double to Curry, who advanced to third on a single by Mitchell Golden. McKinley retired Cleveland, only to commit a balk that forced in Curry for the game’s first run. Mason McWhorter was hit by a pitch and - with runners on second and third - an error by Luke Manzo allowed Golden to score.
Jordan Wren has been struggling at the plate so far this season, but he stroked a double to right to make it 4-0. McKinley managed to record one more out, but was chased from the game after giving up additional RBI singles to Roury Glanton and Curry.
It was a stark contrast from the Eagles’ first seven games that had resulted in 84 runners left on base.
“Baseball is a funny game,” Hennon said. “A lot of it is confidence. The last few games, I felt like we took a lot of strikes early in the count with runners on. We wanted to be more aggressive and I think our guys responded well tonight.”
The first inning offered plenty of support for Eagle starter Seth Shuman, but the true freshman right-hander didn’t need much of it to get the job done.
Shuman has made several relief appearances for the Eagles already, but saved the best performance of his young career for his first start. Shuman allowed just one base runner and didn’t surrender a hit in his first three innings. He picked up the win after tossing five innings and giving up a pair of hits and walks while striking out four Cougar batters.
“Shuman gave us a great effort on the mound,” Hennon said. “When you get a big lead, you sometimes worry about focus, but Seth did a good job of filling up the strike zone and we played sound defense behind him.”
Charleston saw its first offensive spark once Shuman left the game. Zach Strickland relieved Shuman in the sixth and walked the first two batters he faced before serving up a one-out, three-run home run to Danny Wondrack.
Adam Kelly and Zach Cowart pitched though the seventh and eighth, respectively. Lawson Humphries walked one and allowed three hits - leading to three more Cougar runs - in the ninth, but finished out the frame to close the book on the Eagle win.
Georgia Southern now prepares for its first trip away from the friendly confines of J.I. Clements Stadium. The Eagles travel to Memphis for a three-game weekend series.