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Off to a bad start
Eagles face elimination in SoCon tournament
gsu pic
Western Carolina's Cameron Dullnig celebrates his first home run of the season, a solo shot against Georgia Southern in the second inning Wednesday at the Southern Conference Tournament in Charleston, S.C. - photo by Courtesy Southern Conference

            CHARLESTON, S.C. – Sometimes, nothing goes your way.

            No. 3 seed Georgia Southern stranded 10 runners, No. 6 Western Carolina scored in all but three innings and the Catamounts breezed into the winner’s bracket of the 2010 Southern Conference Tournament with an 11-4 upset over the Eagles Wednesday at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.

            Georgia Southern (34-23) took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI single by Kyle Blackburn that scored Shawn Payne, but WCU answered with a solo homer by Cameron Dullnig – his first of the season – in the top of the second to tie it at 1-1.

            The Catamounts (35-19-1) kept on scoring.

            They got two more in the third, three in the fourth, three in the fifth, and one more in both the sixth and eighth innings. The runs came on 14 hits, five GSU walks and a pair of errors by the Eagles’ defense.

            “To play well in this tournament you have to pitch and you have to play defense. We just weren’t real sharp today and to be honest, we didn’t look like we were ready to play today,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. “As a head coach, that’s my responsibility – to get our team ready to play. Maybe I did a poor job of getting us prepared today, because we didn’t play well.”

            Four different pitchers took the mound for GSU. Jake Brown started, pitching into the fifth when Trevor Collias reached on an error and Ollie Goulder was hit by the 84th and final pitch thrown by the starter. Brown went four complete, allowing eight runs (six earned) on eight Western hits.

            Chris Myers pitched 2.1 innings in relief, allowing a run on two hits.

            GSU pushed its second run across in the fourth when Blackburn (4-for-5, 2 RBI) doubled, took third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch by WCU starter Matt Benedict.

            That was about the only mistake made by Benedict (9-1), who went 7.2 innings, allowed only two runs on 10 GSU hits and struck out seven.

            “It’s what we saw all year out of Matt,” said WCU coach Bobby Moranda about the second-team, All-SoCon selection. “The way he threw the ball today is how he consistently threw the ball. He sets the tone for us, and our guys play well behind him.”

            The Eagles didn’t put together a rally until the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little, too late.

            Pinch hitter Victor Roache led off the inning with a solo homer – the eighth of his freshman campaign. Payne answered with a walk and later came around to score on a Blackburn single to cut it to 11-4, but WCU pitcher Andrew Chilcoat finished the job.

            The Eagles will face No. 7 Appalachian State at 9 a.m. today, and the loser will be the first team eliminated from the tournament.

“It’s survival now,” Hennon said. “Once you put yourself in that loser’s bracket, you’ve just got to go out and play hard, get after it and find a way to make it to the next day. In order to do that we’re going to have to come with more energy as a team.” 


No. 2 College of Charleston 12, No. 7 Appalachian State 11, 11 innings

            Justin Brewer hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth to tie it at 10-10 and Rob Kral lined a bases-loaded single to right in the bottom of the 11th as second-seeded College of Charleston (42-15) won the opening game of the 2010 SoCon tournament 12-11 over No. 7 Appalachian State (35-17) Wednesday morning at Riley Park.

            The Mountaineers took an 11-10 lead in the top of the 11th on an RBI double by Hector Crespo.

            The Cougars tied it in the bottom of the frame with a Joey Bergman single that drove in pinch hitter Thomas Brittle.

            Charleston will face Western Carolina at 5 p.m. today while ASU and Georgia Southern will face elimination at 9 a.m.


No. 1 The Citadel 9, No. 8 Furman 5

Asher Wojciechowski was brilliant once again, and some late offence by The Citadel allowed the Bulldogs to pull away with a 9-5 win over Furman in the opening round of the 2010 SoCon Tournament.

Wojciechowski (11-2) fanned eight Paladins while allowing four earned runs to notch the victory.

Dylan Cole and J.B. Jenkins hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the seventh to draw even, but The Citadel responded immediately.

Kyle Jordan laced a two-run double down the left field line to reclaim the lead and The Citadel tacked on two more in the inning before Raymond Copenhaver retired the final three Paladins for the win.


No. 4 Elon vs. No. 5 Samford

            Elon and Samford didn’t get started until long after the 9 p.m. scheduled first pitch. The winner of the late game faces No. 1 The Citadel at 1 p.m. while the loser plays No. 8 Furman in the second elimination game of the day at 9 p.m.


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