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GSU faces Georgia Tech
Georgia Southern third baseman Eric Phillips prepares to catch the ball during the Eagles' season-opening game against UT Martin on Friday night at J.I. Clements Stadium.

    Georgia Southern baseball head coach Rodney Hennon said he will learn a lot about his team at 6 tonight when the Eagles play host to No. 10 Georgia Tech at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    GSU played Georgia Tech four times last season. The Eagles won the Feb. 22 first game, 6-5, in front of a J.I. Clements Stadium record crowd of 3,088. Bases-loaded walks of GSU’s Steve Cochrane and Victor Roache scored the tying and winning runs.
    The following night, the Yellow Jackets won, 7-4. Georgia Tech beat GSU, 4-3 and 12-2, on March 15-16 in Atlanta.
    “They’re always going to bring a talented team in here, year in and year out,” Hennon said of Georgia Tech (3-1). “It’s an in-state rivalry so I think it’s exciting for our players and for our fans as well. It sets up for an outstanding game.”
    GSU (3-0), ranked No. 30, opened its season Friday night with a 7-5 victory over UT Martin. The Eagles beat the Skyhawks, 10-1 and 11-2, to sweep the weekend series.
    “Obviously, you sweep a series and you feel good about that,” Hennon said Tuesday after GSU’s practice. “I thought we did a lot of good things. We were able to get a lot of guys out there, both on our pitching staff and with our position players, so that was good. There are some things that we saw over the course of the weekend, too, that we’ve got to improve upon and work on. And we did some of that today in practice.
    “We had a mistake on the bases at one point in the weekend. And these are all things that are going to happen during the course of the season. I think we could do a better job of holding runners at times than what we did in certain situations. Just some little things like that that we talked about that happened during the course of the series.”
    GSU hit .330 in the three-game series against UT Martin. Michael Burruss, a junior left-fielder, was 7-of-14 with eight runs batted in on two home runs and two doubles. The Eagles’ pitching staff posted a 1.67 earned-run average against the Skyhawks.
    “I thought our older guys did what they were supposed to do,” Hennon said. “Michael Burruss and Victor (Roache) and Eric (Phillips), the guys there in the heart of the (batting) order, did some good things for us.
    “(Pitcher Chris) Beck got off to a good start on Friday night and, really, that was a very well-played game I thought. A very clean game on both sides for six, seven innings. And their guy (Alex Mills) was throwing the ball well also. I thought our young guys handled themselves well. I thought Chase Griffin did a nice job behind the plate. Clint Clark on Sunday as well. I thought Tyler Avera, playing for the first time out there, handled himself well, and T.D. Davis over at first base. That was good to see because it was the first time for those guys. I thought we had several guys out of the bullpen that came in and picked us up, and showed some poise for the first time out.”
    Hennon said GSU right-hander Justin Hess will start on the mound tonight. Hess, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior from Panama City, Fla., is 0-2 in his career against Georgia Tech.
    Yellow Jackets head coach Danny Hall will start right-hander Jonathan Roberts, according to Georgia Tech’s athletics website. Roberts, a 6-foot-3, 196-pound sophomore from Landmark Christian in Fayetteville, will start for the first time in his Georgia Tech career.
    Georgia Tech has 23 letterwinners back from last season’s team, which finished 42-21 and reached an NCAA Regional for the 27th time in the school’s history. The Yellow Jackets were 22-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and won a share of the ACC Coastal Division title.
    The Yellow Jackets won three of four games last weekend at the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Classic in Rock Hill, S.C., which was hosted by Winthrop University. Georgia Tech lost the opener, 5-0, to Kent State on Friday. The Yellow Jackets beat Winthrop, 5-0, in the nightcap. Saturday, Georgia Tech swept Kent State, 6-2, and Winthrop, 5-3.
    Phillips, a third baseman who was GSU’s shortstop last season, said beating Georgia Tech last season provided the Eagles with confidence. GSU finished 36-26, won the Southern Conference Tournament championship for the second time in three years, and advanced to the NCAA’s Columbia (S.C.) Regional.
    “Anytime you can beat a team as good as Georgia Tech it’s always a good win,” Phillips said. “That kind of set the tone early in the season. We had a few mishaps. This year, we’re really focusing on consistency.”

    Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.