The Georgia Southern Eagles didn’t just enter the 2014 softball season. They kicked the door down.
Brooke Red pitched a two-hit shutout and GSU combined for four home runs as the Eagles run-ruled the Oakland Grizzlies 11-0 in the nightcap of the season-opening Eagle Round Robin Tournament at Eagle Field.
Georgia Southern’s 11 runs were more than it plated in any game during 2013.
“I knew we could do it,” GSU coach Annie Smith said about the Eagles’ high-scoring day. “We’ve been hitting the ball hard in practice. You can’t really make any predictions until you see it, but we’ve worked hard on taking a good approach and hitting line drives.”
Cleanup-hitting shortstop Kourtny Thomas, who ended the 2013 Southern Conference tournament with a walkoff homer in the 11th inning against UNC Greensboro, got the scoring started in the fourth inning with a two-run bomb to right-centerfield.
Marking her first-career multi-homer game, Thomas went deep again in the sixth, a solo shot that followed a three-run bomb by Shebly Morrill.
“I think we started off the year right,” Thomas said. “A lot of us were hitting line drives, and some of them went over. You could tell that we’ve been working hard.”
Thomas also drove in Emily Snider in the fifth with a single. Kaitlyn Johnson followed up that run by pulling a three-run bomb to right field. All four fifth-inning runs came on two outs.
The Eagles racked up 10 hits and had baserunners in every inning except the second.
Red kept the Oakland bats silent most of the evening, shutting the Grizz down 1-2-3 in the first, second, third and fifth innings. She struck out eight on her way to her sixth-career shutout.
Oakland threatened only once, when shortstop Sarah Hartley walked and reached third on a Shannon Cleveland single, but Red struck out Brittany Prior to get out of trouble.
The Eagles showed off their depth with four pinch hitters. Morgan Robinson ripped an RBI double of the arm of Oakland second baseman Jackie Kisman.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Smith said. “That was a shot by Morgan. It’s neat to have so much depth. It makes my job a lot harder, but it’s definitely nice.”
The tournament continues today. The Eagles are back in action against the No. 1 team in the nation, Tennessee. The Vols run-ruled Northern Colorado on Friday, 8-0.
The Eagles are taking the approach that its just another game, despite Tennessee’s preseason ranking.
“It’s always important to have confidence,” Red said. “We can’t view them as the number one team, and go out there and be scared. We’ve just got to have the mentality that we’re going to do what we do, and it won’t be in our mind.”
The game against Tennessee will be followed by another game against Oakland at 4 p.m.
Oakland defeated Northern Colorado 5-0 on Friday.
The Eagles wrap up the tournament on Sunday against Northern Colorado at 1:30 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.