Georgia Southern defeated South Alabama for the first time in nine tries and the Eagles maintained a slim lead in the Sun Belts Eastern division as they celebrated a 9-2 victory Friday night at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Junior right-hander Seth Shuman continued his torid midseason tear, picking up his fourth win in as many starts. Shuman tossed 6-plus innings, allowing a pair of runs and scattering six hits while striking out seven. Friday’s win marked the second time Shuman has won four consecutive starts in his Georgia Southern career, the last stretch coming in his final four outings of the 2018 season.
South Alabama (21-21, 8-11 Sun Belt) got on the board first as Reid Powers skied Shuman’s first pitch of the third inning over the fence in right field for a 1-0 advantage. USA doubled its lead later in the inning on a bloop two-out hit by Kaleb DeLaTorre, but that was all the damage the Jaguars could muster against the Eagle starter.
Jaguar starting pitcher JoJo Booker was strong in his first three innings, but he lost all command in the fourth, walking the bases loaded before leaving with an apparent injury to his pitching arm. Tyler Perez came on in relief and was greeted by a two-run single by Eagle catcher J.P. Tigue to tie the game.
Georgia Southern (25-18, 11-8) took the lead for good in the fifth inning.
Steven Curry led off the frame with a single and chased Perez, with USA bringing Andy Arguelles in to pitch. Tyler Martin singled off of Arguelles and Curry scored to give the Eagles their first lead when he raced home from second on a one-out hit by Noah Ledford. Jason Swan kept the rally going with a two-run single. Arguelles walked the next two Eagle batters and made a hasty exit after recording just one out.
Tigue then broke the game wide open, singling in two more runs off of Joel Cheatwood to make it a 7-2 game. Blake Evans capped the Eagles’ big inning, knocking in one more run with a fielder’s choice.
Given plenty of cushion, Shuman walked the bases loaded in the sixth, but worked out of the jam unscathed. He allowed back-to-back singles to begin the seventh inning, but Cole Whitney put out the fire, retiring the first three batters he faced to keep the GS lead at 8-2.
Whitney struck out the side while working a perfect eighth inning and - by working a scoreless ninth and recording three full innings of relief - pitched himself into a save despite the lopsided score.
With the win, Georgia Southern remains half a game above Coastal Carolina in the division standings. Troy fell to Little Rock to open up some breathing room for the Eagles between first and third place. Appalachian State and UT Arlington were postponed in Boone, and the win over USA gets the Eagles three games clear of the Jaguars.
The only lack of parity in the division comes from Georgia State, which fell eight games back after a 27-2 drubbing at the hands of Coastal Carolina.
Georgia Southern will try to keep the momentum going this afternoon and will be looking to do so by shaking up its weekend rotation.
Joe Nahas will get his second start of the season as he takes the hill for today’s 3 p.m. first pitch. South Alabama will send left-hander Jared Proctor to the hill as it tries to even up the series.