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Eagles punch ticket to semis
Moye masterful as GSU tops UNCG, 12-1
Georgia Southern pitcher Andy Moye (22) is greeted at the dugout by the rest of the Eagles as he exits the game in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night in the Southern Conference Tournament at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in Charleston, S.C. Moye pitched eight-plus innings and allowed only one earned run and four hits in the 12-1 GSU win over Western Carolina. The Eagles will face either Charleston or WCU in the semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. - photo by TODD DREXLER/SoCon Athletics

            CHARLESTON, S.C. – In what is the last Southern Conference Tournament for Georgia Southern senior Andy Moye, his second-game start couldn’t have gone much better.

            The righty allowed one earned run in eight-plus innings of work to save the GSU bullpen as the fourth-seeded Eagles punched their ticket to the semifinals with a 12-1 win over No. 8 Western Carolina Thursday night.

            Moye (7-1) allowed only four hits while going eight strong, matching Game 1 starter Chris Beck’s performance early Thursday morning against College of Charleston.

            “He followed up where Chris left off and gave us another strong effort,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “I thought our defense was much better than it was [against Charleston] and that was big. When Andy did struggle a little bit with his command, we made plays.”

            Moye walked eight batters, but he and the Eagles (34-23) found plenty of ways to avoid any damage.

            The Catamounts (23-30-1) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but GSU second baseman Ben Morgan sparked a 4-6-3 double play to get Moye out of the inning.

            Moye walked back-to-back WCU batters in both the third and fourth innings, but each time, he connected with shortstop Eric Phillips to pick a runner off at second base.

            “They were amazing,” Moye said about the GSU defense. “Eric Phillips behind me – we pretty much have that pickoff move mastered at this point – and to have the team behind me like that is awesome.”  

            Offensively, Shawn Payne played the leadoff role to near perfection. He finished just 1-for-2, but walked three times, was hit by a pitch, stole three bases and scored each of the five times he got on base. His five-run game ties a SoCon record set by former Eagle Jeremiah Parker in 2008.

            “He makes us a different team when he’s on base,” Hennon said about Payne, “and he was on base all night long.”

            The Southern Conference Player of the Year – GSU right fielder Victor Roache – was not surprisingly pitched around. He went 1-for-2, but even his first-inning groundout drove in a run, and he finished with three RBIs and scored twice despite being walked three times and hit by a pitch for the second-straight game.

            “You’ve got to have a guy like that in the middle of the lineup,” said Hennon about Roache, who leads the nation with 29 home runs. “He’s developed into that this year, and it makes everyone else better.”

            The Eagles opened the scoring with some small ball in the top of the first inning. Payne walked, stole second, took third on a groundout and scored on the RBI groundout by Roache.

            Payne singled, stole another bag and scored again in the third on a Steve Cochrane single that also allowed Roache to score on a WCU error and gave GSU a 3-0 lead.

            Payne scored for the third time in the fourth. He was hit by a pitch, moved to second on an Phillips single and scored when a pickoff attempt at second turned into a pair of WCU errors.

            Phillips scored on a two-out RBI single by Cochrane to make it 5-0 after four.

            Georgia Southern totaled 14 hits, and Roache, Phillips and Cochrane each drove in multiple runs.

            Joe Lower pitched the final inning to seal the win for the Eagles.

            Western Carolina faces elimination today against No. 5 Charleston at 7 p.m.

            The winner will face the Eagles beginning Saturday at 1 p.m. Georgia Southern’s opponent will have to win twice on Saturday in order to advance to Sunday’s Southern Conference championship game.


Samford stays unbeaten

            No. 3 seed Samford earned a Friday bye and a spot in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament with a 7-1 win over No. 7 Furman Thursday evening.

            Furman (24-32) faces elimination against No. 6 Appalachian State (32-26) today at 3 p.m. against Furman.

            The winner of the 3 p.m. game will face Samford (36-22) in the semifinals.

            The Bulldogs scored early and often against Furman, plating a run in the first, two in the second and three in the third to build an early cushion.

            Samford’s Charles Basford (7-4) nearly went the distance, pitching 8.2 innings and allowing no earned runs and a scattering of eight Paladin hits.


Top seed Elon ousted

            After losing a six-plus hour, 20-inning game in its opener against Western Carolina Wednesday night, Elon, the No. 1 seed of the 2011 Southern Conference Tournament, was eliminated after a 4-3 loss to No. 5 seed College of Charleston Thursday afternoon.

            Charleston (37-21) played the game just 10 hours after its loss to No. 4 Georgia Southern, which began at 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

            Elon (36-21) scored twice in the top of the fifth inning to take a 3-2 lead on a two-run double by Jake Luce.

            The Cougars answered with a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings. Matt Leeds led the way offensively. Leeds went 2-for-3, scored and knocked in a run.

            Charleston faces elimination for the second time in as many days today at 7 p.m. against No. 8 Western Carolina.


Mountaineers eliminate UNCG

            The No. 2 seed UNC Greensboro Spartans bowed out of the 2011 Southern Conference Tournament without a win Thursday and No. 6 Appalachian State stayed alive as the Mountaineers defeated UNCG 6-4 in the first elimination game of the day.

            The Spartans (34-20) scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 4-3 lead, but Appalachian State (32-26) answered with two in the bottom of the inning and another insurance run in the eighth.

            “Well, I thought we showed a lot of guts,” said ASU coach Chris Pollard. “We showed a lot of resilience. We talk a lot about that word with our club, and I’m just really, really proud of our guys.”

            Appalachian State will face elimination for the second game in a row today at 3 p.m. against No. 7 seed Furman.


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