Georgia Southern opened up Sun Belt play with a win Friday night, but a disastrous fourth inning on Saturday brought the Eagles right back to earth.
South Alabama knocked GS starter Brian Eichhorn out of the game after just 3.1 innings of work and scored nine runs in the top of the fourth inning en route to a 19-6 victory at J.I. Clements Stadium.
“We’ve got to flush this real fast and come out and play good baseball tomorrow,” GS coach Rodney Hennon said. “We didn’t play our best, to state the obvious. South Alabama took advantage of their opportunities. We have to fix that and play better tomorrow.”
Tied at 2-2 entering the fourth inning, Will Luft got the South Alabama (10-9, 1-1 Sun Belt) rally started with a double to left. After Eichhorn recorded an out, Hunter Stokes singled to shortstop and Luft came around to score on what would be the first of five Georgia Southern (10-8, 1-1) errors.
Travis Swaggerty added a two-run double, forcing Eichhorn from the game as Zach Cowart came in to relieve. Cowart didn’t fare any better as he immediately walked Wells Davis and Eddie Paparella before a passed ball scored Swaggerty. Cowart committed a fielding error, allowing another run and another base runner and was lifted for Adam Kelly before he recorded an out.
Kelly got a groundout from Luft that plated another run before Jared Barnes launched a home run to right that made it an 11-2 South Alabama lead.
The damage was done, but the Jaguars continued to pile on as Brendan Donovan smoked a two-run home run off of Seth Shuman in the fifth inning and Luft and Barnes connected on back-to-back RBI doubles in the sixth.
The Eagles showed some fight as C.J. Brazil recorded an RBI single in the sixth and Jordan Wren connected on his first home run of the season - a three-run shot - in the seventh, but it was too little, too late.
Georgia Southern had looked to take a second consecutive game in a series against one of the teams expected to contend for the eastern division of the Sun Belt. The Eagles struck first blood in the bottom of the first.
South Alabama starter Thomas Huston ran into immediate trouble as Mitchell Golden sandwiched a single between walks to Steven Curry and Ryan Cleveland to load the bases for the Eagles with no outs.
Curry scored on an error by Huston and Golden crossed the plate when Wren was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, but Huston kept things from getting out of hand and held down the fort until his offense was able to turn the tables on the Eagles.
“You’ve got to just forget about this one,” Hennon said. “Tomorrow is a new day. The series is on the line for both teams, so we need to come out thinking about Sunday’s game and how we can win that.”
In the top of the eighth, Cam Cummings knocked a run in with a double and Carter Perkins chased in two more to finish of the scoring for South Alabama.
Andy Arguelles relieved Huston in the seventh and allowed Wren’s home run, but bounced back to pitch a scoreless eighth. Sean Trimble pitched a perfect ninth to put the finishing touch on the Jaguars’ big night.