On senior day, Kyle Blackburn came up to the plate with two on, two out and trailing by three in the bottom of the ninth.
He laced his would-be third home run of the game to the track in left, but The Citadel’s William Ladd made the catch with his back to the wall to seal a 5-2 win and a three-game sweep over Georgia Southern Saturday in J.I. Clements Stadium.
The Citadel (35-20, 24-6 Southern Conference) won the league’s regular-season title in game two, and got its third solid start on a row out of pitcher Michael Clevenger in game three.
“All three of their starters did a nice job for them,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “They’ve been a top pitching team in the league all year and I think that’s why they won a regular-season championship. We talk about it all the time – it starts with pitching. That’s the strength of their team and you’ve got to tip your hat to them. They got three good outings, and they played better baseball than we did.”
Clevenger went six innings, scattering five hits and allowing one run – Blackburn’s first solo homer in the fourth that cut it to a 3-1 Bulldogs lead.
Georgia Southern (34-21, 19-11) got a solid start from Matt Murray (6-3), who pitched seven innings, allowed seven hits and four runs, all earned, but GSU couldn’t get much going offensively on the nine-hit afternoon.
The Bulldogs added a run in the sixth and another in the eighth, and Blackburn’s second long ball of the day made it 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth. It was good for Blackburn’s career-high and team-leading 17th homer of the season.
The Eagles stranded 10 runners in the contest.
Blackburn was one of eight seniors on the team who each played their last game at J.I. Clements.
“They’re not only good players, they’re good people,” Hennon said about the team’s seniors. “They represent our program both on and off the field and I’m just proud to have been able to coach them – in (Kevin) Bowles’s case five years and a lot of them four. A couple of the transfers have been in the program two or three years. It’s a good group who’s done a great job with these new guys. When we started this thing back in August we knew it was going to be a process in terms of chemistry, getting to know each other, and (the seniors) gave us good leadership this year.”
The Eagles finish the regular season third in the SoCon and will be the No. 3 seed in next weeks SoCon tournament in Charleston, S.C. They will face No. 6 Western Carolina at 1 p.m. in Joseph P. Riley Park Wednesday as they begin the double-elimination event.
The Citadel 7, Georgia Southern 2, Game 2
The Citadel hit four homers including two by Bryan Altman, Matt Talley went seven innings giving up five hits and two earned runs and struck out five, and the Bulldogs clinched the 2010 regular-season, Southern Conference title with a 7-2 win over Georgia Southern in the conclusion of game two Saturday at J.I. Clements Stadium.
The game was completed after play was halted in the bottom of the eighth Friday night because of lightening.
Michael Burruss went 1-for-2 with both RBIs for the Eagles.
Andy Moye (8-4) took the loss for GSU pitching five innings, scattering eight hits and six earned runs.
NOTES: After game two, eight Georgia Southern seniors were acknowledged in a ceremony at the mound. Blackburn, Dexter Bobo, Bowles, Jake Brown, Roman Grimaldi, Charles Matthews, Randy J. Williams and A.J. Wirnsberger were recognized for their efforts at GSU.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.