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Eagles stare down USC
042311 GSU MOYE 1
Georgia Southern's Andy Moye delivers a pitch during a 6-0 Eagle win over Elon April 23 at J.I. Clements Stadium. Moye gets the ball tonight as GSU takes on South Carolina in an NCAA regional matchup. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Andy Moye has been around the program for a long time.

He may be a fifth-year senior at Georgia Southern, but there’s no doubt about it — this is the biggest start of his career.

Moye (7-1, 2.54 ERA) will take the mound for the fourth-seeded Eagles today in the NCAA regionals against No. 1 seed South Carolina at 7 p.m. at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

The Gamecocks (45-14) are the fourth-overall national seed and they are also the defending College World Series champions.

Georgia Southern (36-24) missed the 2010 postseason and earned a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament when a hot streak in the Southern Conference Tournament earned the automatic bid.

In other words, the pressure’s on the Gamecocks.

"We have nothing to lose, we’re the four seed in the tournament, nobody’s going to expect anything from us and we like that mentality, to just be able to go out there and play our game," said Moye. "I’ve just got to stay loose and treat it like any other start. It’s the biggest start of my career, but I’ve just got to treat it like any other start out there."

Georgia Southern has recorded mid-week wins this season over teams from both the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, and head coach Rodney Hennon chalks those wins, as well as the run to the SoCon title, up to one factor — composure.

"If you followed South Carolina when they made that run last year, that’s the one thing they did. Whatever the situation was last year in Omaha, they did a good job of staying composed," Hennon said. "That’s going to be critical for Andy and for the whole team."

Chris Beck, the Eagles’ projected starter in Saturday’s game against either No. 2 seed Stetson or No. 3 seed N.C. State, kept his composure through 17 innings pitched in the SoCon Tournament.

"Guys don’t have performances like that by trying to do too much," Hennon said. "It happens when they’re focused, doing what they do and staying within themselves. We’ve just got to play the game as well as we can play it.

"If you’ve got two teams pitching and playing defense well, it’s going to be who finds the hole. It comes down to a clutch hit, maybe a ground ball that squirts through the infield and finds a hole."

Though GSU will face either Stetson or N.C. State Saturday, Hennon has kept the players focused only on the Gamecocks.

"At practice [Tuesday], coach Hennon had a list of things we need to do to beat South Carolina," said Victor Roache, whose 30 home runs leads the nation. "We’re focused on them right now."

The "nothing to lose" mentality has the Eagles practicing with confidence.

"We kind of shook the rust off a little bit, which is pretty typical coming off of an off day," Hennon said. "[Wednesday] was more crisp, and the team right now is as confident as they’ve been all year long collectively."

The losers of today’s game face off with elimination on the line Saturday at 1 p.m.


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