Matt Miller’s clutch two-run shot in the seventh inning gave Georgia Southern the lead it needed as it avenged an earlier 12-5 loss to the Mercer Bears with a 4-3 win in the last home game of the 2007 season.
“I think we’re just playing better right now, overall,” said Eagle coach Rodney Hennon. “I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We did a good job on the mound. Burt Barto did a nice job getting us off to a good start in the game.
“We got good efforts out of the bullpen from (David) Cogswell, (Kyle) Kamppi and (A.J.) Battisto. Of course (there was) the big home run there from Miller to give us the lead. It was a good team win.”
Kyle Kamppi (4-2) got the win for the Eagles (32-24) pitching 21⁄3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.
The Bears (29-23) got the scoring started early when Tyler Brown’s two-out, RBI double in the top of the first gave the Bears a 1-0 lead. The lead was extended in the second when Andrew Einert hit a leadoff homer that carried over the fence in right.
The Eagles bounced back in the bottom of the inning when Chris Shehan was able to cut the Mercer lead in half, scoring on an A.J. Wirnsberger sacrifice fly to right.
Mercer out-hit GSU 10-9, and solid defensive efforts from both teams kept runners from crossing the plate. A big error, however, in the bottom of the third would prove costly for the Bears. After Eagle right fielder Mike Economos grounded a base hit up the middle, he took a big lead off first. Mercer called for a pitchout, and catcher Josh Thompson threw behind Economos to try to pick him off. The throw sailed past first baseman Mike Armstrong’s glove and rolled into foul territory in shallow right, allowing Economos to advance to second.
Jeramiah Parker blooped an RBI single over shortstop Billy Shaughnessy’s outstretched glove and Economos crossed the plate to tie the game. Bad Mercer fielding was made up for in the bottom of the fourth, when GSU had runners on the corners and one out. Bear relief pitcher Boone Webster was able to get Brian Pierce swinging, and then Jeremy Beckham slapped a sharp grounder to second base. The rally was cut short after a diving play by Mercer second baseman Michael Langley ended the inning.
The Bears re-took the lead in the top of the fifth on a Mike Armstrong RBI single, and the score remained 3-2 until the bottom of the seventh. After Economos lined a base hit into right field, Matt Miller pounded the first pitch over the 365 foot mark in left-center field and sealed the 12th Eagle victory in the last 14 games.
“I was at the plate, looking for a pitch to drive,” said Miller about his third home run of the season. “I got the same pitch a couple of at-bats before when I popped up to left. I just made an adjustment, got on top and drove the ball.”
The win was big for GSU, as it hopes to carry the momentum into the final series of the season against Western Carolina. The Catamounts are tied for the No. 1 spot in the Southern Conference with the College of Charleston. As it stands, the Eagles are tied for fifth in the SoCon. The WCU series will be important because the top six teams in the conference get a first round bye, so the Eagles look to hold on to their spot.
“It was important to win this game going into the weekend,” said Hennon. “We are playing with some confidence and a little momentum right now. It’s important we go up there and take care of business at Western this weekend. We’re all kind of jockeying for that best seed, and obviously we want to stay out of that play-in game on Tuesday. It’s important we continue to play well.”
The regular season concludes with the WCU series that starts Thursday in Cullowhee, N.C. at 7 p.m. and continues through Saturday.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.