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Howard dominant, Eagles tie series with UGA
GSU Howard UGA
Georgia Southern starting pitcher Sam Howard deals against Georgia Saturday at J.I. Clements Stadium. Howard set a career high in strikeouts and innings pitched, as the Eagles beat UGA, 3-2, to even the season series, 1-1. (Georgia Southern Athletics) - photo by Georgia Southern AMR

    The Georgia Bulldogs had no answer for Sam Howard.
    The Georgia Southern sophomore, starting a weekend game for the first time in his career, held UGA without an earned run in his seven innings of work and mowed down seven Bulldogs as GSU won, 3-2, Saturday afternoon at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    “To get so many innings out of a starter this early in the season is huge,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said about Howard. "I thought he showed a lot of poise out there. He was in control the entire time, and we were able to get him enough runs to get it done.”
    The Eagles (1-1) did their offensive damage early, plating two in the first inning and capitalizing on a Georgia (1-1) miscue.
    Scooter Williams led off the GSU first with a bloop double to shallow left field.
    Ben Morgan hit a sharp grounder to third and reached on a throwing error.
    Williams stole third, Morgan stole second, and Chase Griffin did his job, lacing a sacrifice fly out to left that drove in Williams.
    Morgan crossed the plate when cleanup hitter T.D. Davis (2-for-3) slapped a double to center.
    “It was good to get some runs early for Sam,” Davis said. “I can’t speak enough about how he came out and threw the ball. We got some runs for him early and he did the rest.”
    The only run that crossed the plate during Howard’s seven innings was UGA designated hitter Daniel Nichols, who reached on a single, and came around to score on the next at-bat due to a throwing error by GSU second baseman Brent Pugh.
    Howard got into trouble only once after that, giving up a leadoff double to Kyle Farmer in the top of the fourth, but struck out cleanup hitter Hunter Cole looking and got a pair of groundouts to end the inning.
    Leading 2-1, GSU tacked on another in the top of the third after Williams led off the frame with a walk from UGA starting pitcher Patrick Boling.
    Williams stole second, took third on a single by Davis and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Arthur Owens, who came in to pinch hit for designated hitter Garren Palmer.
    Boling pitched only four innings, but struck out nine in the losing effort.
    The Eagles got a scoreless, 1-2-3 inning from reliever Chris Meyers in the eighth, and Kyle Rowe got his first save of the season after coming in to close out the ninth.
    Rowe threw only five pitches, but one was a solo home run hit by Nichols, who plated both UGA runs.
    “We let them hang around a little bit,” Hennon said. “We’ve got to continue trying to extend that lead, but overall it was great to bounce back after (Friday’s 6-5 loss) and even things up. We’re going to have to come out focused and ready to get after it tomorrow.”
    The Eagles, who stranded 10 runners in Friday’s season opener, stranded only three. They swiped four bases — three by Morgan.
    “We were a little better today with runners in scoring position than we were on Friday,” Hennon said. “We took better swings out there, and hopefully we can build off that.”
    The series finale takes place today at 1:30 p.m.
    Georgia Southern will put a freshman on the mound to start for the first time this season, as lefty Jason Richman gets the nod.
    Luke Crumley will start the rubber match for the Bulldogs.
NOTES: Announced attendance was 3,098, the third-largest crowd in Georgia Southern history. Combined attendance for Friday and Saturday was 6,201 — already a three-game series record at Georgia Southern. … Williams returned to the starting lineup after leaving Friday’s game with a cramped calf. … Georgia Southern improved to 16-15-1 all time against UGA at home. … Nichols’ solo shot in the ninth was his first-career home run at Georgia.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.