GREENVILLE, S.C. — Georgia Southern coach Rodney Hennon has been ramming three concepts home all season -- pitching, defense and timely hitting.
The Eagles (27-30), the seventh seed in the 2013 Southern Conference tournament, have needed every bit of all three.
It's taken a complete-game shutout from Justin Hess, an unearned run, a handful of infield singles and a game-winning wild pitch to get the Eagles where they are — the semifinals of the tournament.
The Eagles beat No. 2 Charleston 2-0 and No. 6 Furman 3-2 to earn a day off Friday.
"We just did enough to win, and that's the name of the game," GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. "It doesn't matter how you do it. Just find a way. Early in the year, we were winning a lot of games that way. We struggled the second half of the season to do that, to get that timely hit. These last few games, we've been able to do that. Hopefully that gives us some confidence as we keep playing."
Georgia Southern will play Elon today at 1:30 p.m., at Fluor Field. If the Eagles win, they'll advance to the championship game on Sunday for the fourth time in the last five years. If they lose, Elon will have to beat them again later today.
"We know we're capable of playing good baseball," said first baseman T.D. Davis, who hit a two-run home run in the win over Charleston. "We showed it early in the season, so we'll just go out, try to keep doing that, get some good pitching and try to make it to Sunday."
Davis was moved to the three hole for the first time this season, swapping spots with catcher Chase Griffin. He homered in his first at-bat in the new slot, though the move didn't really make much of a difference to him.
"I like to hit, so I like knowing I'm going to hit in the first inning," Davis said. "Other than that, it doesn't make much of a difference."
The Eagles have also helped themselves out by saving pitchers for the weekend. Hess had his complete game followed up by 6.2 strong innings from Sam Howard against Furman Thursday night. Kyle Rowe finished off the game with 2.1 scoreless innings.
"It's been a crazy, fun ride, that's for sure," Davis said. "We got good pitching out of Hess and Sam, Kyle was good out of the bullpen. (We've gotten) timely hitting — not a whole lot of offense — but enough to win."
GSU rested throughout most of Friday. They worked out mid-day at an indoor practice facility in Greenville owned by friend of the program and former Furman assistant coach Jeff Young.
The team watched a movie in the afternoon, and returned to Fluor Field to watch Friday's games and learn who they would face today.
Though success in the SoCon tournament is not new to GSU, the current run has been a bit of a surprise. The team, which was ranked as high as No. 22 in the country early in the season, struggled mightily lately, closing the regular season on a seven-game losing streak and winning only twice in May. The last time the Eagles won back-to-back games, prior to the tournament, was April 27 and 28.
That hasn't stopped GSU from winning in the tournament, so far.
"It says a lot about the character of those kids. There's no quit in them," Hennon said. "To be able to persevere and get through the tough times — and we've had a lot of those in the second half — I think it says a lot about all those kids, to hang in there and keep fighting. I'm proud of them for that."
Hennon said Friday afternoon that the starting pitcher for today's game will not be named until the Eagles learn their opponent, and will likely be a game-time decision. Available starters are Jason Richman, Josh Stevenson, Evan Challenger and Matt McCall. Hennon said the entire bullpen will be available today.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.