Starting pitching like that is hard to beat.
First, there was the three-game series against UNC Greensboro. Jake Brown pitched a complete game – his second of the season - for Georgia Southern Friday, Matt Murray threw six no-hit innings and struck out 13 on Saturday and Andy Moye went seven in Sunday’s shutout.
Then, there was Justin Hess.
Tuesday against a North Florida team that beat the Eagles 14-3 earlier in the season, the freshman right-hander, who’s deepest previous start went 4.1 innings, threw 25 outs of a no hitter, eventually allowing a pair of singles in the top of the ninth.
Ironically, after Hess loaded the bases on a pair of walks and an error, he almost left the game in the third.
“We kind of laughed about that the next day,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “He played with fire a little bit with the walks in the third inning, and we had Michael Hester throwing in the bullpen early in that ballgame. Justin did a good job pitching out of it, but he goes from being maybe one hit away from coming out of the game to taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning.”
Although the Ospreys eventually tied it at 2-2 in the top of the ninth before the Eagles won it in the bottom half, Hennon only had one regret.
“If I had anything different with that game I probably would have got him out one hit earlier,” Hennon said. “Once he gave the no-hitter up, I probably should have brought Colin (Snow) in, who was fresh, but I was proud of (Hess), and I was proud of our guys for coming back in the bottom half of the ninth and finding a way to win the ballgame.”
The peaking of the starting rotation couldn’t have come at a better time. The Eagles (15-11, 7-2 Southern Conference) play their next six games on the road – three beginning today against the College of Charleston and three more at defending regular-season SoCon champion Elon the following weekend.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t look at this part of the schedule and say that it’s going to be an important couple of weeks for us,” said Hennon. “They all are, they all count, but these next six games on the road are a great opportunity to help ourselves within the conference. It’s certainly good to go in with some momentum and some confidence.”
Charleston (20-7, 5-4) has had its ups and downs of late. The non-conference wins (one against No. 29 Alabama in a three-game series and a single-game win over No. 17 Coastal Carolina) have been big, but the Cougars dropped two of their last three SoCon matchups, losing two games to both Samford and Western Carolina.
They defeated Charleston Southern 9-4 on Tuesday.
“They’ve got a solid club, and they’re tops in the league offensively,” Hennon said. “We’re coming off a stretch where we’re pitching well, and I think we’re playing our better baseball right now. I wouldn’t expect anything less than three very competitive games.”
Today’s game starts at 6 p.m.
Georgia Southern will throw the same weekend rotation as the past two weeks, with Brown going today, then Murray and Moye.
Without a mid-week game following the Charleston series, Hess will play a role in the bullpen. He will be available on five days’ rest for Sunday’s game.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.