There are countless ways to win a baseball game, even if the stats don’t seem to be in your favor.
Georgia Southern proved that old adage true Friday night. Heading to the bottom of the seventh inning, the Eagles still hadn’t recorded a hit, yet they led UT Arlington 3-0. The bats finally arrived and the GS bullpen backed up a superb start by Brian Eichhorn as Georgia Southern took down UT Arlington by a count of 7-0 in a Sun Belt series opener at J.I. Clements Stadium.
“Well, you can’t think about it too much,” said GS coach Rodney Hennon of the unique way the game played out. “The important thing is that Brian gave us a great effort and made some big pitches to keep them off the board. We took advantage of some mistakes in the field and then jumped on them at the end.”
Eichhorn danced around five UTA hits in his first five innings, but Arlington (19-19, 9-7 Sun Belt) starter Brad Vassar entered the bottom of the fifth with a no-hitter intact.
Tyler Martin and Mason McWhorter waited out walks to begin the frame and advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt. Christian Avant got the Eagles on the board with a sacrifice fly and both McWhorter and Chandler Corley raced home when Maverick right fielder Aaron Funk misplayed a fly ball.
Vassar worked through the sixth without allowing a hit before McWhorter led off the seventh with a single, but the walks and error had done the damage as Eichhorn never blinked.
The junior righty struck out eight and allowed just one walk while the rest of the Eagles (18-19, 9-6) played near-perfect defense behind him.
“I didn’t think about the score too much early on,” Eichhorn said. “Honestly, it kind of helps you and pushes you to be better when the other guy is throwing really well. But it was big when we finally broke through and I wanted to make sure we got the win.”
Eichhorn pitched through the seventh and Cole Whitney came on in relief, striking out one and walking one to slam the door and preserve the shutout over the final two innings.
The Eagles picked up an insurance run - and maybe a bruise - when Jason Swan was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
Georgia Southern broke things open in the eighth. Corley knocked in a run with an infield single. Mitchell Golden punched a single into right for another RBI hit and Corley worked his way around the base paths to score when UTA threw the ball away as it tried to cut down aggressive Eagle base running.
“We took advantage,” Hennon said. “We finally got the bats working a little and we tried to put on some pressure. We’ve been running the bases well lately and probably picked up an extra run or two by doing it well tonight.”
The Eagles ended the night being outhit 7-5 by the Mavericks, but will gladly trade away that stat for a much-needed win in Sun Belt play.
The teams will meet again today at 3 p.m. as Seth Shuman takes the mound for Georgia Southern.