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Eagles, Phoenix set for SoCon showdown

Elon has been doing it all year long.

The Phoenix dropped only one Southern Conference series to this point, losing two of three at UNC Greensboro on the first weekend of April, and the only midweek series loss was a two-game sweep by Clemson.

If they want to stay at the top of the conference, they’ll have to go through Statesboro.

The Georgia Southern Eagles, which trail Elon by a game and a half, host the Phoenix in a pivotal three-game series this weekend at J.I. Clements Stadium.

"Obviously the winner of this series puts themselves in the driver’s seat," said GSU coach Rodney Hennnon. "There’ll still be a lot of baseball left to be played — we’re right at the half-way point — but this series puts you in a situation where you basically control your own destiny."

For the first time this season, the Eagles (22-15, 11-4 SoCon) did not play a mid-week game. They took Monday and Tuesday off and returned to practice Wednesday.

"We have a mindset where if we’re able to win this series — hopefully sweep — we’ll have a good chance to win the league," said right fielder Victor Roache, who has homered in each of the last five games. "We’re definitely getting mentally prepared."

While time off can often slow momentum, the break couldn’t have come at a better time for GSU, which has played five of the last seven games on the road.

"In our situation, it helps," Hennon said about the week off. "We’re coming off two long road trips to West Virginia and Western Carolina, and we had the two mid-week games sandwiched in. Especially for the younger guys who haven’t really been through the grind of a regular season, I think it was good to have a couple of days. We took Monday and Tuesday off just to kind of let guys get their legs underneath them and get caught up on some schoolwork."

Meanwhile, the Phoenix (25-14, 14-4) have remained consistent. While their hitting numbers are down — Elon is batting .252 on the season compared to GSU’s .311 average — they have an on-base percentage of .373 and average six runs per game.

"What they’ve done to score runs, if you look at their numbers, they’ve drawn a lot of walks and a lot of hit batsmen," Hennon said. "While their batting average may be down, they’re still finding ways to get guys on base."

Georgia Southern’s pitching rotation has not been set in stone for Sunday.

Chris Beck (5-1, 3.59 ERA, 56 K, 52.2 IP) is expected to start today, and senior Andy Moye (4-1, 2.70 ERA, 34 K, 40 IP) is slated for the Saturday start.

First pitch today is slated for 7 p.m.




: With the next Elon win, head coach Mike Kennedy will reach the career 500-wins plateau. … GSU shortstop Eric Phillips currently leads the SoCon in batting average (.428), on-base percentage (.509), runs (44) and hits (62). … Roache leads the league in home runs (18, also leads Division I) and total bases (109). … Second-baseman Ben Morgan leads the league in sacrifice bunts (10). … Relief pitcher Matt Murray leads the conference in ERA (0.92), opposing batting average (.158), hits allowed (21), runs allowed (7) and earned runs allowed (4). He has pitched 39 innings in 16 appearances.


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