CHARLESTON, S.C. — They got a little bit of help, but the Georgia Southern Eagles grabbed Game 1 against College of Charleston.
The Cougars committed three errors, tossed three wild pitches, and centerfielder Cole Rakar held the ball after a Michael Burruss single while Shawn Payne trotted home for a fifth-inning run as the Eagles got an 11-7 win Friday at Patriots Point.
The Eagles (14-9, 5-2 Southern Conference) belted 13 hits in the win.
Charleston (15-8, 2-2) took a 4-1 lead after batting around in the second, plating two on a double by Rob Kral on a fly ball Payne lost after he slipped.
Payne made up for the slip by later driving in four runs, stealing a base and scoring twice.
“I needed to make up for it,” said Payne, “and I had the opportunity to deliver.”
Offensively, things finally started going Georgia Southern’s way in the top of the fourth when four two-out runs crossed the plate with two outs to put the lead back in the Eagles’ hands.
Catcher Tom Richardson walked, Ben Morgan laid down a bunt single and Arthur Owens was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Payne.
Payne worked a 2-2 count through an eight-pitch at-bat before sending a grounder up the middle for a two-run single.
Michael Burruss tied the game at 4-4 with an RBI single to opposite field that scored Owens.
After Eric Phillips walked, Steve Cochrane was hit by a pitch to force home Payne and put GSU ahead 5-4.
The Eagles got four more in the fifth to blow the game open.
Singles by Richardson and Morgan put two on with one out, and Owens was hit by another pitch to load the bases for Payne for the second-straight inning. Payne capitalized again, this time with a two-run double.
Richardson went 3-for-3, drove in two and scored two. He also threw out two base stealers from behind the plate.
“I don’t want to speak too soon,” said Richardson, “but I felt good in [Tuesday’s 8-2 win] against Kennesaw, I felt good really good tonight, and I’ve just got to keep going, keep the train rolling.”
Burruss singled in Owens, and Payne scored as Rakar took his time getting the ball back in.
The Cougars tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth to cut the GSU lead to 9-5, and both teams plated two runs in the sixth to make it 11-7.
Charleston threatened even more in the sixth after Chris Beck (5 IP, 5 R, 4 K) left the game in the fifth, loading the bases on reliever Jarret Leverett with one out before Matt Murray struck out Jose Rodriguez and forced a pop out off the bat of Cole Rakar to get out of the jam.
Murray pitched 3.2 innings and struck out five, including Jamie Holler (3-for-5, 2B, 3B) with runners on the corners and two outs to end the game.
The series resumes today at 3 p.m. Josh Adams is projected to start for the Eagles.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.