OCALA, Fla. — Georgia Southern stayed within striking distance of the top five on Friday, by firing a second-round 286 (-2) to put the Eagles in a sixth-place tie with Kennesaw State at 5-under at the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional. Freshman Hayden Anderson shot a career-low 69 (-3) at the par-72 Golden Ocala Golf Club to help Georgia Southern stay in contention. Defending National Champion Augusta State leads the 14-team field with an 11-under 565. N.C. State's Mitchell Sutton, starting the day in a fourth-place tie, recorded a five-under 67 to move into first place in the individual standings with a 135 (-9).
"We got three out of our four scores we needed today, and are still only two strokes out of second," said Head Coach Larry Mays. "We had a great bounce back round by Lewis (Gruber) and a 69 by our freshman Hayden (Anderson) that was huge. Logan (Blondell) birdied his last hole to get under-par and give the team a good score we needed."
Georgia Southern's 571(-5) team total through two rounds is the best 36-hole total this season and second-lowest total at a NCAA Regional in program history. The Eagles missed the record by one stroke as the 2001 team posted a 6-under 570 two-round total at the par-72 Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va.
Only two strokes separate Georgia Southern from four of the top five teams. GSU is one stroke behind Arkansas and Baylor, both tied for fourth place at 6-under. Florida and N.C. State are in a second-place tie at 7-under. The top five teams in the regional advance to the NCAA Championships at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., May 31st-June 5th.
The Eagles started the final round of the 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional in eighth place before posting their lowest round of the tournament to finish tied for fourth place. Georgia Southern advanced to the NCAA National Championships with a 863 (+23).
"Our team definitely knows how to come from behind," added Mays. "Obviously there are good teams in this field and it's going to be tight again. That experience last year will help us go deep and put up some solid numbers down the stretch. Our team has to have four scores tomorrow."
Anderson, who opened the day in a tie for 32nd place, finished the second round in a 17th-place tie at 2-under. The freshman used three birdies, along with a bogey-free scorecard, to move up 15 spots. Anderson shot 1-under on the front-nine before birdies on the par-4 10th and 13th led him to sign for a 3-under 69.
Senior Logan Blondell finished in red numbers for the second-straight day, shooting a 1-under 71 to head into the final round in a tie for 10th-place at 4-under (140). The Lakeland, Fla., native scattered three birdies around the course, including his second-straight birdie on the par-5 18th hole in as many days.
Junior Lewis Gruber returned to postseason form, firing a 3-under 69 in the second round. He had four birdies around the course and only one bogey on his scorecard. Gruber carded a set of birdies on the third and fifth holes, before signing for another pair on holes No. 10 and 12. Senior Matt Deal posted a 5-over 77 to start the final round in a tie for 48th-place. Sophomore Florian Sander finished the second round two strokes behind Deal with a 79.
Georgia Southern is paired with Southeastern Louisiana and Oregon for the final round. Lewis Gruber tees off first for the Eagles at 7:30 a.m. on hole No.10. Each player will follow in 10-minute increments.
"A lot of teams have started good rounds on hole No. 10 this week, so hopefully we can make some noise coming from that side," said Mays. "We started on the back nine for our final round at last year's regional, so maybe that is some good karma for us. The bottom line is we have to play well."