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Eagles host Paladins in pivotal conference series

    If the season ended today, Georgia Southern and Furman would both have a spot in the 2013 Southern Conference tournament.
    Unfortunately for them, it doesn't.
    Furman will visit J.I. Clements Stadium for a three-game series against GSU beginning today at 6 p.m., and neither has clinched a spot in the eight-team bracket.
    "This time of the year, everybody's dangerous," GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. "Everybody's fighting to get in the tournament. We haven't locked down a spot. Neither has Furman, so we're fighting for the same thing."
    Currently in fifth place, the Eagles (24-21, 12-12 SoCon) hold a two-game edge over the Paladins (24-19, 10-14). Both teams have spent time at the top of the SoCon this season.
    "I have not seen a big gap this year between anybody," Hennon said. "I think there's parity with everyone in the league. It's a matter of who goes out and gets good pitching, plays good baseball on any given night."
    There's a lot on the line for the Eagles during the last three weeks of the season.
    Hennon, now in his 16th season as a head coach and 14th at GSU, has never won fewer than 31 games — a streak on the line this season. He ranks in the Top 10 among active NCAA coaches with 16-consecutive, 30-plus win seasons.
    Under Hennon, the Eagles have never failed to make the eight-team SoCon tournament field.
    With so much riding on the final 10 games, which include a three-game series at Clemson and another against SoCon rival College of Charleston, both on the road, Hennon is just ready for the most exciting month in college baseball.
    "I think this is the best time of the year to be playing, and that's what I told the team," he said. "To me, if you're a college baseball player or coach, if you're involved in the game at this level, the month of May is the best time of the year. You're fighting for seeding, and it all comes down to the wire. Everybody's trying to get into the postseason."
    Justin Hess (4-2) will start today for the Eagles, and Jason Richman will start Saturday. First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., to allow the Paladins to make a quick trip back to Greenville, S.C., for Furman's graduation. The Paladins will return for Sunday's 1:30 p.m. first pitch.
    Saturday's game will feature breakfast at the J.I. Clements concessions stand.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.