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Charleston steals game one in ninth

CHARLESTON, S.C. — An eighth inning rally returned the lead to Georgia Southern, but a two-run ninth sealed the series opening win, 5-4, for College of Charleston Friday night (April 2) at Patriots Point.

Kevin Bowles drilled a single up the middle to kick off the explosive eighth inning, but College of Charleston stood in good position sending the top of the batting order to the plate to close out the game.

Georgia Southern (15-12, 7-3) used seven hits and two Cougar errors to score four runs off Charleston (21-7, 6-4) starter Christian Powell. Five Eagles were stranded on the base paths to the Cougars’ two (one in the ninth), who were also picked off twice by Eagle starter Jake Brown (Forest Hill, Md.).

            Brown (4-3) drew the loss with Charleston reliever Tom Schiller picking up the win (4-0). Between three pitchers, only one walked was issued, which occurred in the fourth to Steve Cochrane. Brown struck out eight Cougars while Powell and Schiller split four Eagle strikeouts.

An RBI double off the bat of Kyle Blackburn in the top of the first with one out quickly put Georgia Southern on top, 1-0, when it plated Arthur Owens who reached on single up the middle. But a Cole Rakar solo home run to left in the bottom of the frame brought the game back to even at 1-all.

Another homer cracked the knotted score in the bottom of the fourth inning. Rakar led off the inning singling through the left side bringing Matt Leeds to the plate with one on and no outs. Leeds lifted a 0-1 pitch over left center field to hand the Cougars a 3-1 lead.

College of Charleston threatened more damage in the sixth, but failed to capitalize. Joey Bergman opened the half inning with a fly out to left before Rakar reached on a fielding error by shortstop Eric Phillips (Carrollton, Ga.). Brown picked off Rakar on his first attempt eliminating a run from scoring on a Leeds double down the left field line that followed. Jose Rodriguez hit a groundball between shortstop and third as Eagle third baseman A.J. Wirnsberger (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) made the stop and threw out the Cougar to end the inning.

Georgia Southern struck in the eighth inning, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring three runs on three hits to regain the lead. The Eagles cut its deficit in half when a hit batter put Shawn Payne (Stone Mountain, Ga.) on first to jumpstart the inning for the Eagles. Powell forced an infield popup from Roman Grimaldi (Duluth, Ga.) for the first out, but an errant throw by the center fielder on an Owens grounder put runners on second and third after each advanced an extra base. Bowles lined a 2-0 pitch up the middle, scoring Payne and moving Owens to third cutting the score to 3-2.

The Eagles then tied the contest on a wild pitch that plated Owens before Blackburn put GS up 4-3 with a single down the right field line that drove Bowles in from third. A Wirnsberger single kept the rally alive for Georgia Southern, but Powell worked his way out of further damage getting a strikeout and force out on a fielder’s choice.

Both teams were sat down in order the close out the eighth and top of the ninth. Charleston tied the game in the bottom of the ninth after Rakar drove a single to right for a leadoff hit. Leeds doubled to center field scoring Rakar and tying the game, 4-4. Two batters later, Rob Kral singled through the right side to score Leeds from second as the walk-off hit handed Charleston the 5-4 win.

Blackburn closed out the game 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Michael Burruss (Marietta, Ga.) also went 2-for-4 to lead the Eagles. Both Raker and Leeds(three RBI) were 3-for-4, scoring all five runs between them.

The conference foes continue series action on Saturday with game two beginning at 1 p.m.