CHARLESTON, S.C. – There’s still a long way to go, but as of 3 a.m. Thursday morning, fourth-seeded Georgia Southern has been in the driver’s seat at the Southern Conference baseball tournament.
The Eagles (34-23) knocked off College of Charleston in a 12:30 a.m. game Thursday morning, and had to play Western Carolina the next evening, and if that sounds hard, it’s been even harder on the Cougars.
Charleston (38-21) had to beat No. 1 seed Elon in an elimination game 10 hours after losing to GSU, and then beat No. 8 Western Carolina Friday while the Eagles had the day off, just to stay alive in the tournament.
Now the Cougars face a rematch against the Eagles at 1 p.m.
Should the Charleston come away with the win, the two teams will play again at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to Sunday’s SoCon title game.
Though the Cougars lead the Southern Conference offensively, it has been pitching that got them to the semifinals.
“They’ve got good pitching,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “It still comes down to pitching and defense. You’ve got to get timely hits, but obviously as teams get deeper into their staffs, you’ve got to be able to slug it out a little bit as the tournament wears on.”
Georgia Southern ranks third in the conference offensively, but it has been two nearly-flawless, eight-innings starts by Chris Beck and Andy Moye that has left GSU with nearly a full tank on the pitching staff heading into the weekend.
Matt Murray, the 2011 SoCon Pitcher of the Year, will start today’s 1 p.m. game.
Murray (4-2, 1.96 ERA, 65 K, 59.2 IP) has been Georgia Southern’s closer nearly all season. He got his first start in GSU’s 5-2 win over Davidson on Monday, May 16. He also recorded his ninth save of the season Wednesday in the opener against Charleston.
If the need to play a second game today arises, a starter has yet to be named.
Josh Adams, Justin Hess and Will Middour, who have combined for 22 starts in 2011, haven’t started a game in the tournament, although Middour is expected in a relief role during the weekend.
“You’ve got to plan for everything,” said Hennon, “but right now the focus is on that one o’clock game.”
Appalachian State 5, Furman 0
The No. 6 Appalachian State Mountaineers (33-26) made quick work of No. 7 Furman (24-33) Friday, blanking the Paladins 5-0 and sending them home for the season.
The Mountaineers will face No. 2 Samford (36-22) in the semifinals beginning at 9 a.m. today.
An ASU win would force a second Saturday game between the two teams. The winner will go on to face the winner today’s Georgia Southern matchup Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Southern Conference Championship game.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.