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Georgia Southern sends App State out of the SoCon
Eagles advance to conference semifinals with 2-1 win
Georgia Southern's Stryker Brown and Appalachian State catcher Josh Zumbrook watch Brown's two-run home run in the fourth inning of the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference tournament on Friday at Riley Park in Charleston, S.C. The Eagles won 2-1 and advanced to the semifinals. It was ASU's last-ever game as a member of the SoCon. - photo by SoCon Photos

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- On Friday, somebody was going to play their last game ever as a member of the Southern Conference. Stryker Brown made sure that wasn’t going to be Georgia Southern.

Brown blasted a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning and the Eagles eliminated the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the quarterfinals of the SoCon tournament on Friday at Riley Park with a 2-1 win.

Both teams will join the Sun Belt next season.

The fourth-seeded Eagles (36-21) advanced to the semifinals of the tournament for the fifth time in the last six years. Because of its loss to ASU on Wednesday, GSU will face elimination against No. 8 Furman on Saturday. They will need to beat the Paladins twice, beginning at 10 a.m., to advance to the conference title game on Sunday.

“We’ve got some momentum,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “We’ve talked a lot about that after losing on the first day. With each win you get a little more momentum and a little more confidence. The goal was to get to Saturday. We got to Saturday. Now we’ve got to get to 5 o’clock on Saturday.”

Brown’s homer, his second of the tournament, left the park after Aaron Mizell singled to open the fourth inning off of ASU starter Dallas DeVrieze.

“Mizell did a good job getting on board that inning, and I was just trying to get on top and hit a ball hard somewhere,” Brown said. “I was glad it had enough on it to get out and get us some runs.”

Of the Eagles’ 12 runs in the tournament, seven have been driven in by Brown and fellow senior Ben Morgan. All but three have been driven home by seniors.

“Your seniors, the guys who have been here and paid their dues and have been in these situations before, typically those are the guys that step up come tournament time,” Hennon said.

Georgia Southern used six pitchers, and the longest outing -- unsurprisingly -- went to Jason Richman, who went for the third day in a row and has thrown more than 100 pitches in the span. Richman allowed a pair of hits and struck out four in 3.1 scoreless innings.

Richman has matched a school record this season with 42 relief appearances.

“When you've got guys playing hard behind you, the only thing you’re going out there on is adrenaline,” RIchman said. “It doesn’t matter if you throw one pitch or 100 pitches, everybody lines up, gets out there and pitches their tail off.”

The win went to Avery Fagan, who retired all four batters he faced.

“Every guy we ran out there stepped up and gave us a great effort,” Hennon said. “We were just very fortunate to score one more run than they did.”

Appalachian State (21-34) threatened in the bottom of the ninth when Dillon Dobson singled and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Jaylin Davis, but Tripp Sheppard came in to record the final two outs -- a strikeout and a groundout to third -- to earn the save. He threw nine straight fastballs to the Mountaineers.

“I faced them before and I threw fastballs at them,” Sheppard said. “Today there were a lot of guys putting some good hits on some balls, and the wind was a factor, but I knew coming in I just needed to throw fastballs and hit the outside corners.”

Appalachian State got its lone run in the bottom of the fourth after a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt got runners to second and third and Alex Leach hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate the run.

Zach Joyce pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless relief for the Mountaineers, allowing only a hit and a walk to the Eagles.

“They played hard and their kids left it all out there on the field,” Hennon said about ASU. “We were very fortunate to come away with a win today.”

Furman, which advanced to the semifinals after beating UNC Greensboro in Tuesday’s play-in round and beating Western Carolina and Appalachian State on Wednesday and Thursday, earned a bye on Friday. The Paladins will have an opportunity to advance to the championship game with a win over the Eagles.


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