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Georgia Southern opens SoCon tournament with loss to ASU
Elimination game Thursday at 10 a.m.
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CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Sometimes, you’ve got to make your own luck. Wednesday for the Appalachian State Mountaineers, Georgia Southern made it for them.

The Eagles had two opportunities to put ASU away, but the Mountaineers came back to win 3-2 in 11 innings in the opening round of the Southern Conference tournament at Riley Park.

Fifth-seeded Appalachian State (21-32) came up in the top of the ninth trailing 2-1, and Preston Troutman hit a grounder to GSU shortstop Dalton Busby. The throw sailed into the seats, and Troutman took second on a two-base error, the only defensive miscue on either side.

Two outs later, Troutman scored off a single by Jaylin Davis.

“We made one mistake and they took advantage of it,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “They got a couple of big two-out hits, and when you’re talking tournament baseball, that’s what it comes down to.”

The fourth-seeded Eagles (34-21) went down in order in the ninth to force extra innings.

In the 10th, GSU started off the frame with an infield single by Garrett Chapman and Hunter Thomas taking first after taking a pitch to the arm from ASU reliever Taylor Thurber.

Chase Griffin attempted a sacrifice bunt, but the first went foul and the second was popped up in foul territory.

The threat ended when Dalton Busby popped out to shallow centerfield and Chapman was doubled up at second.

“We had an opportunity to win the game, but you've got to execute,” Hennon said. “The bottom line is, today, we didn’t. We just came up short.”

Michel Pierson crushed a homer halfway up the foul pole for the winning run in the top of the 11th.

The Eagles will face the loser between No. 1 Western Carolina and No. 8 Furman on Thursday at 10 a.m. The loser will be eliminated.

“You don’t have time to hang your head,” Hennon said. “There’s a long way to go in this thing. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and find a way to get to Friday.”

Georgia Southern seniors provided a majority of the offense. Stryker Brown crushed the first pitch he saw in the fourth over the right field fence to break a scoreless tie, and Ben Morgan drove in Kody Adams -- who doubled down the left field line -- to give the Eagles a 2-0 advantage.

“That was huge,” GSU starting pitcher Josh Wirsu said. “It really helped us say, ‘Hey, here we go. We can do this.”

Wirsu pitched 6.2 innings and allowed only four hits. The defense backed him up, and Wirsu picked off a runner in the third. Griffin gunned down the only ASU base stealer in the game.

Pierson singled in the seventh, and reached third on two wild pitches -- one by Wirsu and one by relief pitcher Jason Richman -- and Richman allowed an RBI single by Davis that gave the Mountaineers their first run.

Richman allowed three hits and an unearned run. Matt McCall pitched a scoreless third of an inning, and Ryan Frederick pitched the final 1.2 innings, allowing the game-winning homer to take the loss.

Closer Robert Whaley got the win pitching the final 1.2 innings, but starter Tyler Moore went eight strong, allowing five hits and both GSU runs.

NOTES: It is the final SoCon tournament for both ASU and GSU. Both teams will join the Sun Belt Conference next season. Elon, which was eliminated on Tuesday in the play-in round by a loss to 10th-seeded The Citadel, is leaving the SoCon for the Colonial Athletic Association. … It was the second time Wirsu and Moore faced off this season. The Mountaineers also won the first meeting 3-2, on March 22. … GSU fell to 57-21 all time against Appalachian State.


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