A day after winning at J.I. Clements Stadium for the first time in history, Samford’s baseball team on Saturday jumped out to an early lead and held on to beat Georgia Southern, 6-5, in the second game of a Southern Conference three-game series.
Samford (32-16 overall, 18-8 SoCon) scored three runs in the first inning. Zeth Stone reached base on a fielding error by GSU shortstop Eric Phillips. Brad Moss singled up the middle, moving Stone to third base. Moss advanced to second base on a wild pitch by GSU starter Justin Hess. Saxon Butler grounded out to first base to bring in Stone for a 1-0 lead, and move Moss to third.
Samford’s Phillip Ervin singled to center field to bring in Moss for a 2-0 lead. Ervin moved to second base on Brandon Miller’s single, and Ervin advanced to second. C.K. Irby reached first on a fielder’s choice and drove in Ervin for a 3-0 lead.
"That start’s unacceptable," said GSU head coach Rodney Hennon, whose Eagles fell to 25-23, 11-12. "Samford was very aggressive right out of the gate. You’ve got to credit them. But we looked like we were on our heels early and that’s not acceptable. We’ve got to be ready to play from the first pitch for nine complete innings."
A crowd of 1,402 watched as Samford’s Christiaan Durdaller led off the second inning with a home run to right field, giving the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead.
Durdaller singled in the fourth inning, advanced to second on Austin Allison’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Stone’s double off the wall in right field to make it 5-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, GSU’s Phillips singled to break up Samford starter Josh Martin’s no-hit bid. GSU’s Chase Griffin singled to drive in Scooter Williams from third and cut the score to 5-1. GSU’s Stryker Brown singled to bring in Phillips and trim it to 5-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, GSU’s Ben Morgan singled and Williams was hit by a pitch. Phillips’ single brought in Morgan to cut the score to 5-3.
Samford’s Durdaller doubled to right-center to lead off the ninth inning. Allison’s sacrifice bunt moved Durdaller to third base. Stone walked and Moss’ sacrifice bunt brought in Durdaller to give the Bulldogs a 6-3 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, GSU’s Tyler Avera grounded out to third. Brent Pugh walked and moved to second on reliever Lex Rutledge’s balk. GSU’s Ben Morgan singled, moving Pugh to third. Samford’s Irby relieved Rutledge, and Irby walked GSU’s Williams to load the bases. GSU’s Michael Burruss popped up for the second out.
GSU’s Phillips singled to third, bringing in Williams to cut the score to 6-4. On the same play, Samford third baseman Tommy Corbin’s throwing error to first base allowed GSU’s Morgan to score and pull the Eagles within one run, 6-5. GSU’s Griffin struck out swinging to end the game.
"We battled back, and I was pleased to see the effort," GSU’s Hennon said. "None of our kids gave up by any means. We battled. But when you dig yourself a 3-0 hole, you make it awfully tough, especially against a good team like Samford."
Samford’s Martin (9-1) earned the win. The 6-foot-5, 234-pound senior right-hander struck out two, walked one and allowed three runs (all earned) on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He threw 90 pitches. Samford’s Irby, the Bulldogs’ fifth pitcher of the game, registered his ninth save.
GSU’s Hess (3-3) registered the loss. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior right-hander struck out one, walked two and allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits in five innings. He threw 87 pitches.
GSU’s Phillips finished 3-for-5 with two runs batted in. Phillips is seven hits away from tying Scott Henley’s career record of 326 hits. Morgan was 2-for-4.
Samford, which beat GSU, 5-4, on Friday night, will play the Eagles at 1:30 p.m. today. GSU right-hander Will Middour (2-3, 4.17 ERA) is slated to start against a Samford pitcher to be determined. The Eagles are wearing camouflage caps as part of GSU’s military appreciation weekend.
GSU will play host to Western Carolina in a three-game series starting Friday at J.I. Clements Stadium. It will be the Eagles’ final home series of the season before traveling to play at Kennesaw State (May 15) and at Wofford (May 18-19). The SoCon Tournament begins May 23 in Greenville, S.C.
"Next weekend’s next weekend," GSU’s Hennon said. "We better worry about tomorrow. There needs to be a sense of urgency with every game, and right now the only game that matters is tomorrow."
Noell Barnidge may be reached at (912) 489-9408.