Georgia Southern started its season with a bang.
Actually, three of them.
Mercer kept scrapping and never went away, but the Lady Eagles blasted three home runs and overpowered the visiting Lady Bears 7-5 in the GSU season opener during the Spring Hill Suites Eagle Classic Saturday at Eagle Field.
Megen Smith, who was voted preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year for the upcoming season, drove in four runs on a pair of homers and also handled starting pitching duties.
“She’s fired up,” said GSU coach Maggie Johnson. “It’s her senior year and we’re very focused on certain goals. I think she wants it bad. She wants to win and this is her last chance. It’s a great start.”
Mercer (1-1) scored a run in the third and fourth innings to turn a 3-0 GSU lead into a one-run game, and could have done more damage were it not for centerfielder Marie Fogle, who gunned down Mercer’s Lilli Luke at home after a single by Amanda Santa Maria for the second out of the fourth.
Smith broke the contest wide open in the bottom of the fifth.
Fogle got things started with a one-out double to left center, and shortstop Jorie Walker followed that up with a grounder back to the mound. When Mercer pitcher Kassie Bailey fielded it, she tried to catch Fogle at third. Her arm tried to get the ball to third base, but the ball didn’t cooperate, slipping out of her hand and leaving runners on second and third for Smith.
Smith crushed a 1-2 pitch over the fence for a 6-2 GSU advantage.
After Smith set Mercer down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, she got things started by battling Mercer starter Jenni Holtz through a 10-pitch at-bat. Smith uncorked the 10th pitch sending it out of the park to straightaway center for the first run of the game.
Cleanup hitter Mackenzie Williams battled to a full count during the next at-bat, and made it back-to-back homers by pulling a solo shot to left field.
Back-to-back doubles by right fielder Kelly Burnett and second baseman Hanna Ennis in the second inning put the Eagles ahead 3-0.
Smith pitched 3.1 innings and allowed two earned runs on four Mercer hits, and freshman Allie Miles got her first-career appearance, relieving Smith. Miles got the win, allowing four hits and three runs with a pair of strikeouts.
“There’s a lot of promise there,” Johnson said about Miles and fellow freshman Sarah Ourvis, who pitched 3.1 no-hit innings against Radford in the tournament’s third game. “The way they throw kind of compliments what we have in Megen and Brianna [Streetmon]. As much experience and passion as they have, the freshmen are competitive. They want to learn, they want to win, and they’re going to fight out there.”
Mercer dug back in during the top of the sixth, plating three runs to cut the score to 6-5. Sara Stukes, Sarah Santana and Santa Maria each doubled in the inning.
The Eagles tacked on their final run in the bottom of the sixth, when Andrea Tarashuk drove in Burnett with a pinch-hit double.
Streetmon, the SoCon preseason Pitcher of the Year, closed out the game for GSU, facing five batters, allowing no hits and striking out one.
Mercer 6, Radford 4, Game 1
The Radford Lady Highlanders out-hit Mercer 9-5 in game one of the Spring Hill Suites Eagle Classic Saturday, but the Lady Bears scored four runs in the top of the fifth inning to open the tournament with a 6-4 win Saturday.
McKenzie Woody went 2-for-2 with a walk and crossed the plate three times in the win. Kristin Marko and Sara Stukes each drove in a pair of runs.
Radford was led by Meredith Moore, who went 3-for-4 and crossed the plate twice.
Kari Chambers got the win for Mercer. She went the distance, walking two and striking out seven.
Radford 7, GSU 0, Game 3
The Radford Lady Highlanders needed only five hits to tally seven runs and blank Georgia Southern 7-0 in game three of the Spring Hill Suites Saturday at Eagle Field.
Nichole Beall and Hannah Ojeda each crossed the plate twice for Radford.
Eagles ace Brianna Streetmon allowed all seven runs — five of them earned — on 3.2 innings of work.
Freshman Sarah Purvis, in her first-career appearance, pitched 3.1 innings for the Eagles allowing no hits and striking out six.
The tournament resumes today at 10 a.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.