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Charleston wins in 9th with a walk-off

CHARLESTON -- Reminiscent of game one, College of Charleston recorded a Southern Conference win over Georgia Southern, 8-7, with a walk-off hit in the ninth inning on Saturday  at Patriots Point. Georgia Southern rallied from a run down in the top of the frame as Shawn Payne scored from second on a grounder to first to knot the score at 7-all.

 Sending their leadoff batter to the plate to start the ninth, Charleston put Joey Bergman on with an error by the shortstop. With two out and runners on first and second, Jose Rodriguez drilled a single to left center field for the game-winning hit as Bergman scored from second for the final score, 8-7.

 Georgia Southern slipped to 15-13, 7-4 in league play, while CofC improved to 22-7, 7-4. Eagle reliever Colin Snow (1-2), an Alpharetta, Ga., native, drew the loss working 1.2 innings, surrendering four runs on four hits. Heath Hembree (5-1) picked up the win for the Cougars closing out the game as both starters left the game with no decisions.

 Georgia Southern manufactured a run in the second inning, which would prove beneficial with Charleston’s productive fifth inning. Kevin Decker handed GSU the leadoff batter with a hit batsmen putting A.J. Wirnsberger on first. Eric Phillips followed advancing Wirnsberger to third doubling down the right field line. A Michael Burruss groundout plated Wirnsberger as the Eagles struck first, 1-0.

 A four-run top of the fourth cushioned the visiting Eagles’ advantage after sending nine batters to the plate. Kevin Bowles opened the explosive fourth reaching on a single through the left side with one out and Kyle Blackburn moved Bowles two bases with a single through the right side. Back-to-back doubles put three runs on the board as Wirnsberger lifted one to left center followed by a Phillips double to left. Three batters later an error by the Cougar third baseman allowed Victor Roache to reach first while Phillips scored unearned for a 5-0 Georgia Southern lead.

 Eagle starter Matt Murray forced a double play and fly out in the bottom of the frame and worked himself out of a threat in the fourth with a runner on third, but the next at-bat for Charleston would cut the score to a one run ballgame.  Greg Blake opened the fifth with a solo blast to right center to put Charleston on the board, 5-1. On a full count, Bergman doubled to left center and scored on a Cole Rakar single in the next at-bat. With one on, Rob Kral homered for the second time this series to left center to bring the Cougars to within one run, 5-4.

 A sacrifice fly from Arthur Owens in the sixth gave a run back to GSU as it extended its lead to 6-4. Roache led off with a single to left and advanced to third on an errant throw from Decker that sailed into left on a failed pickoff attempt.  Owens then responded with a sacrifice fly to center field driving in Roache for a 6-4 Georgia Southern advantage.

 But the Eagle lead would be reversed in the eighth inning when Charleston took its first lead scoring three runs on three hits for a 7-6 margin. With Rodriguez on second, designated hitter Kolby Epley homered to center field in the second home run of the game, tying the score at 6-apiece. The Cougars would take the lead immediately following with Blake’s second home run of the game as the senior launched a long ball to center.

Trailing by one, the Eagles entered the ninth inning in need of a run. The second hit batsmen of the game put Owens on first who was then replaced by Payne on the base paths. Payne stole second and then scored on Blackburn’s RBI groundout to first base.

 Charleston would stage its second come-from-behind win in as many days putting runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth. Rodriguez drove in the game winning run with a single to left center with two outs.

 Bowles went 3-for-5 with one run scored, while Wirnsberger and Phillips (two RBI) both posted two hits apiece. Bergman and Rodriguez were both 2-for-5 for the Cougars accounting for four runs, while Blake went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI.  Both teams stranded seven base runners with two of Charleston’s coming in the ninth.

 The series will conclude with the finale game on today with a first pitch of 1 p.m.