Friday night’s game between Georgia Southern and Troy featured the Sun Belt Conference’s preseason Pitcher of the Year.
True to form, Troy’s Andrew Crane had a solid outing, but his counterpart for the night might have the postseason awards voters looking elsewhere.
Georgia Southern’s Brian Eichhorn turned in a career night against one of the league’s better offenses, tossing a 119-pitch, nine-strikeout complete game shutout as the Eagles moved into third place in the Sun Belt’s East division with a 3-0 victory at J.I. Clements Stadium.
“I was locating all my stuff and I felt good,” Eichhorn said. “It’s a crazy feeling when you get the calls you need and you know that you can make all the pitches you have to.”
Eichhorn breezed through the early innings and didn’t allow a baserunner until issuing a two-out walk in the third inning. An error allowed Troy catcher Chase Smartt to reach base in the sixth, but it wasn’t until a leadoff single in the seventh by Joey Denison that the Trojans (31-15, 13-9 Sun Belt) recorded their first - and only - hit of the night.
The Eagles (23-21, 13-8) got on the board via Mason McWhorter’s eighth home run of the season in the second inning.
Austin Thompson knocked in another GS run with a sacrifice fly in the third and it was all Eichhorn from there.
Sporting a late-breaking curve and a fastball that sat in the 93-94 range throughout the night, the junior righty tied up batter after batter in a Troy lineup that started six players batting over .300 on the season. Aside from Denison’s hit - a sharp ground ball past Eagle third baseman Mitchell Golden - Trojan batters managed just a handful of squared-up balls put into play.
“You’ve got to hand it to Brian,” GS coach Rodney Hennon said. “That was a great effort. He did everything you could ask him to do and then we played some defense and did just enough with the bats to get the win.”
Eichhorn was relaxed after the game and said that familiarity with Crane made it more of a fun night than a showdown between big Friday night arms.
“We played together last summer,” Eichhorn said. “We know what each other can do. I see him having a good night, so then it was a challenge to go out each inning and see if I can top it.”
Crane was good, but Eichhorn was undoubtedly better.
Crane exited after seven innings and Chandler Corley knocked in an insurance run for the Eagles with an RBI groundout in the eighth off of Lance Johnson.
Eichhorn strutted out to the mound in the ninth and Chase Cohen’s warmup pitches in the Eagle bullpen seemed like a token formality as Eichhorn recorded his final strikeout of the night for the second out and touched 95 miles per hour on the radar gun in pitching a perfect ninth inning to put the series opener in the win column for Georgia Southern.
The teams will meet up again today at 3 p.m. Seth Shuman gets the nod for Georgia Southern and - with another win - the Eagles can ensure themselves of a spot in at least third place in the division coming out of the weekend.