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Eagles return to SoCon play with 8-game winning streak

            The Georgia Southern Eagles aren’t the hottest team in the Southern Conference right now by accident.

            The Eagles (30-19, 16-8 Southern Conference) have put together an eight-game winning streak, and the contributions have come from all over the lineup.

            The infield of A.J. Wirnsberger (.328), Eric Phillips (.345), Kevin Bowles (.340) and Kyle Blackburn (.335) take up four of the top five batting averages on the team. The speed of an entire first-year outfield has become more and more productive, accounting for 46 stolen bases, including an eye-popping 36-for-36 by centerfielder Shawn Payne.

            Even Phillips, who has stolen 10 bases on the season, joined in the fun swiping home in Sunday’s doubleheader against Alcorn State.

            “You can’t do that with any base runner,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “Eric’s a pretty heady base runner, and we were talking about it the first couple of pitches. He felt like he had it, gave it a shot and it worked.”

            Payne and right fielder Victor Roache have also shown power of late, combining for eight homers on the season including two by Payne against Alcorn and a pair of grand slams by Roache the previous week.

            Since occupying the designated hitter role, redshirt freshman Michael Burruss has seen his average climb .050 points to .244 and catcher Randy J. Williams has reached base safely from the nine hole in 17-straight games.

            Of course, there’s freshman Arthur Owens, the sixth .300-plus hitter in the lineup.

            “I like the way we’re coming to the park right now,” Hennon said. “School’s behind us, and I think guys are having fun when they come down here. We’re doing a good job about taking things one step at a time and I like our approach.”

            The Eagles will need to keep that approach by not looking too far ahead. They face The Citadel, the first place team in the SoCon in the regular-season finale next weekend, but first they’ll need to take care of business in a three-game series that starts today at Davidson if they want a shot at the regular-season championship.

            The Wildcats (19-26, 5-19) have had tough goings this year, and haven’t played since May 4 when they shocked Virginia Tech with a 14-10 win.

            Georgia Southern will start Jake Brown (7-4, 3.74 ERA, 68 K) tonight at 6 p.m.

Matt Murray and Andy Moye will close out the series.


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