Georgia Southern’s baseball team sputtered to a 4-0 loss to Western Carolina on Friday night at J.I. Clements Stadium, a defeat that left head coach Rodney Hennon questioning his players’ competitiveness.
There was controversy in the bottom of the sixth inning. GSU cut the score to 4-2 on junior Scooter Williams’ two-run home run to left field. But home plate umpire Eric Johanson, first-base umpire Mike Cheek and third-base umpire Mike Gary met and overturned Johanson’s initial call. They ruled that it was a foul ball and they took GSU’s runs off the scoreboard, denying Williams of what would have been the third homer of his career.
"I don’t want to comment on that," Hennon said. "We’ve got more important things to worry about than that call. We had every opportunity to come out here and play good baseball tonight. And right now, we’re not playing very inspired baseball. That’s the bottom line. This team’s got to learn to play with a little bit more of a competitive edge and an attitude in every phase of the game, and I haven’t seen it a whole lot lately. The umpire is the least of my concern. I’m worried about the things that we can control."
Western Carolina (30-18 overall, 14-11 Southern Conference) and GSU (26-24, 12-13) will play the second game of the three-game series at 2:30 p.m. today. The Eagles’ final home series will wrap up at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
A J.I. Clements Stadium crowd of 1,103 watched as Western Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Tyler White singled to bring in Cody Jones. The Catamounts pulled ahead, 2-0, on Jacob Hoyle’s single to the wall in left-center, just past the reach of GSU’s Michael Burruss, to drive in Ross Heffley.
The Catamounts took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning when Jones singled to drive in Bryant Noteboom.
Western Carolina made it 4-0 with two outs in the sixth inning when Hoyle doubled to bring in Jones.
The Catamounts out-hit the Eagles, 13-5. Western Carolina starter Jordan Smith (4-4) earned the win. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound sophomore right-hander struck out four, walked one and allowed five hits in nine innings. He threw 118 pitches.
"They dominated the game from start to finish," Hennon said. "Give them credit. They swung the bats very well, I thought. Smith was in total control for them the entire ball game. We did not do anything to really threaten him or put them under any pressure. We didn’t do a whole lot to create a whole lot of excitement out here tonight."
GSU starter Chris Beck (4-7) registered the loss. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior right-hander struck out three, walked three and allowed three runs (all earned) on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings before being relieved by right-hander Chris Myers. It was Beck’s shortest outing since May 19, 2011, at Appalachian State, when he lasted 3 1/3 innings.
Beck, a preseason consensus All-American, threw 91 pitches. GSU used five pitchers in the game.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, GSU senior Eric Phillips singled for his 323rd career hit. He is three hits shy of tying Scott Henley’s school record of 326 career hits, which Henley produced from 1998-2001.
GSU freshman Hunter Thomas was 2-for-3, the only Eagle with multiple hits. Western Carolina’s Jones, Heffley, Hoyle and Noteboom had two hits apiece.
GSU right-hander Justin Hess (3-3, 4.82 ERA) is scheduled to start today against Western Carolina left-hander Morgan McKinney (6-2, 3.50 ERA). GSU right-hander Will Middour is slated to start Sunday against Western Carolina right-hander Jeremy Null (4-3, 5.11 ERA).
Noell Barnidge may be reached at (912) 489-9408.