Georgia Southern pitching held Georgia Tech to only five hits and struck out seven as the Eagles held on for a 4-3 win over the visiting Yellow Jackets on Wednesday in the 2014 home opener at J.I. Clements Stadium.
It was the first tightly-contested game of the season for the Eagles (3-1), who beat Georgia by six and 14 runs and lost by eight in last weekend’s season-opening series in Athens.
“That’s the first thing I talked about with the guys after the game,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “I think it was good for us to be in that situation and I was pleased with the way we handled it.”
Aaron Mizell continued swinging a hot bat, as the junior-college transfer shortstop went 3-for-4 with a double and drove in a run. So far through four games in his GSU career, Mizell is 9-for-17 with two home runs and six RBIs.
“I’ve just got a little hot streak going,” Mizell said. “That’s baseball. I could come out the next game and go 0-for-4, and one of my teammates will be the one that picks us up. Right now, I’m doing a pretty good job seeing the ball.”
Georgia Tech (1-3) trailed by a run in each of the final two innings, but Eagles relief pitcher Matt McCall set down all nine batters he faced.
“You come out here and you have to battle for one, and we got to see under pressure how people do. It was really good to see, especially the pitching,” Mizell said.
Georgia Tech struck first, when Brandon Gold’s RBI double drove in Daniel Spingola in the top of the second.
The Eagles answered in a hurry, when Garrett Chapman crushed his first career homer over the left-center fence.
Josh Black led off the third with a double, and the Eagles gained the lead two batters later. Ben Morgan walked and Black scored off an RBI single by Mizell.
Yellow Jackets catcher Arden Pabst mishandled the throw home, and there was a collision at the plate with Black before he touched the dish for a 2-1 GSU lead.
Black was replace in the lineup by Garren Palmer the next inning after limping off the field after the score.
“He was a little banged up,” Hennon said. “I’d say he’s day-to-day right now.”
The Eagles made the score 3-1 when Morgan scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Chase Griffin.
The lead was extended in the fourth. After Dalton Busby doubled, he scored off a Palmer ground ball that was booted by Tech first baseman A.J. Murray.
The Yellow Jackets closed the 4-1 gap to one run in the seventh. Keenan Innis led off the frame with a double, and reached third on a single by Thomas Smith. Matt Gonzalez tried to lay down a squeeze bunt, and GSU pitcher Tripp Sheppard’s throw to first was errant and Innis scored. Murray laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Smith scored on a sacrifice fly by Mott Hyde.
McCall, who replaced Sheppard after the error, struck out Pabst to get out of trouble.
Sheppard struck out three in two innings of work.
Jason Richman (2-0) got the win, striking out two in two innings. Eric Alonzo earned the start, the first of his GSU career, and despite allowing Tech runners to reach third in each of the first three innings, held the Yellow Jackets to one run on one hit.
“Eric did a good job,” Hennon said. “It could have gotten away from him there, but I thought he settled in and was getting better as he went.”
Alex Cruz entered the game midway through the fourth inning for Georgia Tech and dominated for four frames, but the Eagles had already plated all four runs.
Cruz allowed three hits and struck out seven.
Georgia Southern returns to action on Friday at 6 p.m., at home against Maryland-Eastern Shore, in the first of a four-game series.
Announced attendance for Wednesday’s game was 3,213, the second biggest in program history. The largest was also against the Yellow Jackets, on Feb. 22, 2012.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.