The Samford Bulldogs won 10 of 11 heading in to J.I. Clements Stadium, but ran into the pitching of Jake Brown and Dexter Bobo as Georgia Southern took game one Friday with a 5-2 final.
Brown, who has already thrown three complete games this season, took another one deep. He threw 7.2 innings, allowed just five hits from Samford (21-12, 11-2 Southern Conference) and struck out four to only two walks.
“Coming in I felt really good,” said Brown, who improved to 5-4 on the season. “I knew I had to pick myself up after that Elon start I had – only five innings – but I definitely made some pitches tonight. I wasn’t really locked in with those 3-2 pitches, that’s where those two walks came from, but the hitting picked me up today and the guys were able to make plays behind me.
Bobo came in with two down in the top of the eighth, faced four batters and retired them all, striking out one and fielding two hot shots at the mound to secure his fourth save of the season.
The Eagles (18-15, 10-6) popped things open in the bottom of the fourth inning with a rally that started by a single driven up the middle with one out by Kyle Blackburn. Eric Phillips – hitting in the cleanup role for the first time this season – lined a double down the left field line to put runners on second and third.
Phillips went 3-for-4 and scored three times behind the hitting of A.J. Wirnsberger, Victor Roache and designated hitter Michael Burruss.
“The ball is definitely coming in clear out of the pitcher’s hand,” said Phillips. “I can tell the difference between now and the start of the season. I don’t think it matters who hits where – we’re all going to get our base hits, we’re all going to drive in runs. We’re coming around offensively and we’re going to keep improving.
After a Wirnsberger popout for the second out of the fourth, Roache (1-for-2, 2 RBI, 2 BB) drove a two-run single to center and took second on the throw home.
Burruss took a single the other way to drive in Roache and give GSU a 3-0 lead. Burruss was caught stealing to end the threat.
Samford answered with an RBI double in the sixth by cleanup hitter David Schulze that cut it to 3-1, but the Eagles got it back in the sixth when Burruss took a bases-loaded walk to drive in Phillips for a 4-1 lead.
Schulze drove in another in the eighth as the only batter faced by GSU reliever Colin Snow, and closer Dexter Bobo came in with two on and struck out Samford’s Bo Smith to end the threat as Georgia Southern headed into the bottom of the eighth with a 4-2 lead.
The Eagles tacked on some insurance in the eighth when a sacrifice fly by Burruss drove in Phillips for his third trip across the plate and a 5-2 GSU lead.
Game two of the three-game series takes place today at 6 p.m.
First pitch will be thrown out by GSU football quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware, the father of GSU baseball player Jake Ware, who will receive it.
NOTES: Samford’s starting pitcher, senior Jonathan Stephens, suffered his first-career loss as a Bulldog, and now sits at 12-1 in his career.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408,.