The last time Georgia Southern made an appearance in the regionals, the NCAA made sure it was just about as far away as possible.
Two years after the Eagles flew into Los Angeles for the Fullerton, Calif. regional, they’re at the site closest to home.
Georgia Southern, the automatic qualifier out of the Southern Conference, will take the No. 4 seed to Columbia, S.C. to face the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks, the defending College World Series champions and overall fourth seed nationally in the 64-team tournament.
“We’ve got nothing to lose when you’re the defending national champs and you’re playing at home,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon about facing the Gamecocks in the first round. “There are a lot of expectations that come with that. The way I look at it, the pressure is on them and we’ve got nothing to lose. We’ve just got to continue to play good baseball.”
Regional play begins Friday at Carolina Stadium, with games at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m..
Also in the Columbia bracket are No. 2 Stetson (41-18) and No. 3 North Carolina State (34-25), who will also face off on Friday.
The winners of the two Friday games will face off on Saturday, and the losers will face elimination Saturday from the double-elimination bracket.
Georgia Southern has not faced any of the teams in the Columbia regional this season, but did defeat two regional hosts during the regular season. The Eagles defeated then-No. 1 Florida, 7-0, on March 8 in Gainesville, Fla. and took one of the season’s four games against Georgia Tech.
“We played Florida and Tech. It’s just another game,” said GSU starter Chris Beck about the matchup with the Gamecocks. “They put their pants on the same way we do. We’ve just got to go in there and play our game.”
The Eagles last played South Carolina in 2010, losing 8-5 in 13 innings at J.I. Clements Stadium. They lost 2-1 in 10 innings in Columbia in 2009.
“Our guys know we can play with them,” Hennon said, “and that should give us some confidence going in.”
Senior Andy Moye (7-1, 2.54 ERA) will start Friday’s ballgame.
“I’m a fifth-year senior, I’m one of the team captains and I’m just going to go out there and do everything I can,” said Moye. “Every game could be my last, and I need to go out there and play like every game is my last.”
Chris Beck, who pitched 17 innings and struck out 22 in two starts in the Southern Conference tournament, will face either N.C. State or Stetson on Saturday.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.
Friday, June 3
Game 1 - No. 2 Stetson vs. No. 3 NC State - 1 p.m.
Game 2 - No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Georgia Southern - 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 4
Game 3 - Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 - 1 p.m.
Game 4 - Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 - 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 5
Game 5 - Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 - 1 p.m.
Game 6 - Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 4 - 7 p.m.
Monday, June 6
Game 7 - If Necessary - 7 p.m.