It may go down in the books as a no decision, but anyone who was at J.I. Clements Stadium Tuesday evening knows the real story.
Freshman righty Justin Hess came two outs away from a no-hitter before finally allowing a pair of singles in the top of the ninth as Georgia Southern held on for a 3-2 win over North Florida.
It wasn't until some funny looks from his teammates midway through the game tipped Hess off to what he was on his way to accomplishing.
"Everybody was shooting looks at me and that's when I kind of looked at the scoreboard and realized what was going on," Hess said. "I was kind of nervous but I kept trying to go out there and make good pitches."
After Matt Murray went six innings without allowing a hit Saturday against UNC Greensboro, the team was careful to avoid a jinx.
"We got late in the game and (left fielder) Roman Grimaldi said, ‘Don't let nothin' drop.' We didn't want to say, ‘no hitter,' but we didn't want to spoil it," said centerfielder Shawn Payne.
Hess, who hadn't gone more than four innings in either of his first two mid-week starts, gave up a liner up the middle to North Florida (14-13) first baseman Andrew Karmeris and a bouncer up the gut by centerfielder Justin Preckajilo to leave in the ninth after 8.1 innings pitched, the two late hits, four walks and six strikeouts.
All of a sudden, the Eagles (15-11) who had been two outs away from a hitless game and a 2-0 win, found it all tied up when a double off reliever Colin Snow by pinch hitter Kevin Martin drove in Karmeris and Preckajilo.
Snow got out of trouble to send it to the bottom of the inning, when GSU got the winning run across.
Steve Cochran led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, and pinch-runner Scooter Williams took second on a balk. Eric Phillips laid down a textbook sacrifice bunt to get Williams to third with one out, and an intentional walk to catcher Michael Burress put runners on the corners.
It was Payne who pushed a grounder to second base to drive in Williams for the game-winning run.
"I didn't want to be too selective," Payne said about the final at-bat of the game. "I just wanted to have the opportunity to get the job done, because I knew if I put it on the ground, I'm pretty sure they weren't going to turn two. I knew I'd get the job done if I put it in play."
A top-of-the-first, two-out rally got the first GSU run across. Kyle Blackburn laced a double to the left-center gap, and a single down the third-base line by A.J. Wirnsberger drove him in.
Georgia Southern made it 2-0 when Payne led off the eighth with a single and later scored on a dropped fly ball by Preckajilo.
Snow (1-1) got the win while Ospreys' starter John Atteo, who pitched a gem of a game in his own right, was tagged with the loss after going 7.1 innings, allowing only the first-inning earned run and giving up seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Georgia Southern returns to Southern Conference play Friday on the road against the College of Charleston at 6 p.m. - the first of a three-game series.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.