Victor Roache opened a can of offense in the bottom of the first with his second grand slam in as many games, and Georgia Southern got the breath of fresh air it needed.
The Eagles didn’t stop scoring as they cruised to a 16-2 win over Kennesaw State Tuesday at J.I. Clements Stadium.
The Eagles (23-19) had dropped four of their last five and needed a spark as they prepare for Furman for a weekend, three-game series.
“We definitely needed this tonight, no question about it,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “We needed that heading into this weekend. Furman is a tough team and they’re fighting for their lives trying to play their way into the tournament.”
For Roache, a freshman, the slam was his fifth homer of the season.
“You don’t get many opportunities with the bases loaded like that,” Roache said. “Two games in a row. When you try to hit a home run, nine times out of 10 it’s not going to happen, so I just try to go out and have a good at-bat with the bases loaded.”
Kennesaw (18-23) got itself a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Ray Anderson led off the game with a single, took second on a groundout, third on a stolen base and home on a Tyler Stubblefield sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
The Owls didn’t lead for long.
A.J. Wirnsberger walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame to tie it up, and Roache made it 5-1 with one swing of the bat.
Two innings later, with the Eagles (23-19) sitting comfortably at 8-1 after Shawn Payne (3-for-3, BB, RBI), Randy J. Williams (2-for-2, 2 BB, 2 RBI) and Arthur Owens scored in the bottom of the third, GSU pitcher Chris Myers left the game after allowing only the one run on two hits and striking out two in his three innings of work.
The freshman, who pitched in high school but was primarily a catcher, was awarded the win in his first career start.
“Can’t get any better than that,” Myers said. “I pitched about 60 innings my senior year (in high school), and the biggest transition from catching to pitching is just being able to throw your off-speed pitches for strikes. Coach (B.J.) Green has helped me a lot with my slider and my changeup and I think it’s getting better every day.”
Nearly everyone in the Georgia Southern bullpen got involved in the action, and the bottom two in the order – Payne and Williams – combined to go 5-for-5. They each also crossed the plate twice.
Kevin Bowles, Eric Phillips, Wirnsberger and Roache each scored twice and Roache and Phillips, who also hit a home run – a three-run shot off the scoreboard in the sixth – drove in multiple runs. Phillips led the team with a season-high five RBIs.
The Eagles scored in six of the eight innings in which they hit.
Five pinch hitters were used and they didn’t lose a step. Michael Burruss and Jake Ware each crossed the dish after reaching in pinch situations.
Furman hosts GSU for a three-game series beginning with a Saturday doubleheader in Greenville, S.C.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.