Joe Panik matched the entire hitting output of St. John’s in the opening game of its three-game series with Georgia Southern as he went 5-for-6 and scored four runs in the Red Storm’s 14-3 series-evening victory Saturday afternoon at J.I. Clements Stadium.
St. John’s notched two five-run innings and three Red Storm pitchers combined on a five-hitter to bounce back from a 4-3 defeat Friday evening.
Saturday’s game began as a pitcher’s duel as St. John’s Kyle Hansen and Georgia Southern’s Josh Adams both breezed through the first three innings without allowing a run.
The Red Storm (4-4) finally broke through in the top of the fourth inning when — after recording the first out — Adams surrendered seven consecutive St. John’s hits.
Panik began the rally with a single up the middle and came around to score the game’s first run on singles by Paul Karmas and Sean O’Hare.
Preseason All-American Jeremy Baltz brought Karmas and O’Hare in to score on a two-run double to center and both Matt Wessinger and Joe Witkowski added RBI singles to stake St. John’s to a 5-0 lead.
"St. John’s came out and hit the ball very well today," said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. "(Adams) pitched well early, but St. John’s put some good swings on us in the fourth inning and put together some hits.
"We’ve only had our starters go four innings in each of the first two games of this series. That’s something we need to improve on."
The Eagles (7-4) got onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth when Tom Richardson singled home Michael Burress, but Eric Phillips was thrown out at home on the play and GSU had to settle for just a single run in the frame.
Georgia Southern and St. John’s traded runs in the fifth inning, but the Red Storm broke the game open with another five-spot in the sixth.
RBI singles by Panik and Karmas got the Red Storm going and a bases loaded single by Wessinger ended up clearing the bases when a Burress throwing error allowed all runners to advance.
St. John’s continued to pour it on in the seventh as a Panik double was sandwiched in between home runs by Pat Talbot and Karmas, and Red Storm relievers Kevin Killpatrick and Anthony Cervone allowed just one GSU run over the final 3.1 innings to seal the win.
Today, the two teams will square off in the third and final game of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Wednesday, Georgia Southern will travel to Gainesville to take on top-ranked Florida before beginning Southern Conference play against Furman next weekend.
"I’m looking at our next two games as a test," said Hennon. "We had a rough game today, but we need to bounce back. I’m going to be looking to see how we respond over these next two games. Hopefully, we’ll come out a little better and be in good shape for the beginning of the conference schedule."
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.