In the first game of the season at J.I. Clements Stadium, nine innings wasn’t enough.
Not even close to enough.
Leading 3-2 in the ninth inning, Georgia Southern was an out away from nailing down the win over Georgia Tech. Chris Brown coaxed a weak grounder out of Ryan Peurifoy, but second baseman Kent Rollins couldn’t field it cleanly. Matt Gonzalez then sent a two-strike offering to the wall in center to tie the game.
Instead of a GSU win, the teams battled deep into the night and Brandon Gold smashed a three-run home run off of Byron Yelverton in the 16th inning to give the Yellow Jackets a 6-5 victory in a game that lasted 4:45.
It was the longest game in Georgia Tech’s history and the second longest for the Eagles.
Georgia Southern (1-3) nearly rallied to extend the game in their half of the 16th.
Georgia Tech (4-0) turned to Jake Lee for the save. Lee retired two of the first three batters he faced before Logan Baldwin singled and Zach Cowart ripped a two-run double to bring the Eagles within 6-5. C.J. Ballard rolled a grounder to second and nearly reached after a wild throw, but Gold was able to keep his foot on the bag to finally bring the game to a close.
“It’s a tough one to lose,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “Sometimes that last out is the hardest one to get. We could have let things get away after they tied it in the ninth, but I like the way we stayed in it.”
Until Gold’s blast, the Eagles had gotten a phenomenal effort out of their pitching staff.
Landon Hughes tossed three perfect innings in his Georgia Southern debut in last week’s season opener at Georgia. Given the ball to start Wednesday’s game, Hughes continued to roll.
The 6-foot-5, 171-pound junior transfer breezed through five innings, striking out one. The only damage done by Georgia Tech off of Hughes was a line drive home run to left off the bat of Matt Gonzalez.
“We knew that we wanted Landon to get some midweek starts,” Hennon said. “(Last) Friday was the right time to get him work in a weekend series before tonight’s game and he certainly did a great job for us.”
Following Hughes’ effort, Ryan Frederick tossed a clean sixth inning while Adam Kelly sat down the Jackets in the seventh and eighth. Brown struck out three and got through the 10th inning after allowing the unearned run in the ninth.
Hunter Phillips, Connor Simmons, Anthony Paesano and Chandler Newman combined to throw four and two-thirds innings with six strikeouts and just two hits allowed before Georgia Tech finally got to Yelverton.
“We definitely weren’t planning on playing 16 innings,” Hennon said. “On the bright side, a lot of guys showed us what they can do. We competed with every pitch.”
With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, C.J. Brazil knocked in a run with an RBI single. Jordan Wren followed with a line drive to center that got under the glove of Peurifoy for a triple that chased home Brazil.
Georgia Tech inched within 3-2 in the seventh inning with an unearned run. Peurifoy walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt before heading to third on a passed ball. Johnson was able to push him home with an RBI groundout.
Both teams put a runner on third in the 11th inning and threatened to break the deadlock.
Phillips struck out Peurifoy and Johnson to get the Eagles out of the jam. In the bottom half of the frame Rollins singled and moved to third on a double by Logan Baldwin, but McDonald struck out to end the threat.
The Eagles will be back in action Friday as they host the first of a four-game series against Radford. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.