Games one and two saw the teams combine for 36 runs, but when Georgia Southern completed the three-game sweep over Alcorn State Monday at J.I. Clements Stadium, it was all about the pitching of Justin Hess.
The freshman righty threw seven innings, allowed six hits and two earned runs while striking out four as the Eagles won their seventh-straight with a 5-3 decision over the Braves.
Hess (1-1) limited the baserunners while the defense behind him helped record his first win as an Eagle. It was Eric Phillips in the top of the fourth lunging after a topper that took a high bounce to save a would-be hit and A.J. Wirnsberger diving all over the hot corner at third throughout that helped keep Hess’s pitch count down.
“They made some great plays behind me and helped me go further into the game,” said Hess. “The defense was working, I was able to execute some pitches and I was able to get the win.”
Alcorn State (23-24) struck first when a leadoff walk to Kenney Rowan in the third set up an RBI double by Kilby Perdomo (2-for-5, 2 RBI), and scored off Hess again in the seventh when Perdomo grounded out to drive in Josh Brumfield.
Hess threw 56 pitches in the first three innings, but left the game after seven innings with 100 to his credit.
“I started to feel more comfortable on the mound,” he said, “and I started to understand that I needed to pound more strikes and let the defense play behind me.”
Offensively, the Eagles (29-19) were methodical. An RBI double by Kyle Blackburn drove in Shawn Payne (2-for-3, 2B, 3 R, 3 SB) to tie it at 1-1 in the bottom of the third.
Georgia Southern took the lead for good in the fifth, when sac-fly RBIs by Blackburn and Kevin Bowles drove in Randy J. Williams and Payne for a 3-1 advantage.
The Eagles added two more in the seventh on an RBI double by Eric Phillips.
Georgia Southern doesn’t get any time to rest as it returns to action today at 6 p.m. against Charleston Southern at home. The teams last met March 6 in Charleston where GSU took an 8-6 win.
The Eagles return to Southern Conference play at Davidson Thursday, where they are mathematically in contention for a regular-season conference title and, with eight regular-season games and as many as five in the SoCon tournament, have an outside shot of reaching the 40-win plateau.
But they don’t want to think too far ahead.
“It would be nice to get 40 wins,” said Hess. “But we’ll definitely take it one game at a time. We can’t look ahead past Charleston Southern.”
NOTES: With his base hit in the bottom of the third, Williams successfully reached base for the 16th-straight game. … Relief pitcher Colin Snow is expected to start today’s game, with Jake Brown, Matt Murray and Andy Moye expected to go in the weekend series at Davidson starting with Brown on Thursday.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.