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Eagles bounce back in a big way
Avoid sweep, even conference record with 17-4 win
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    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Georgia Southern’s offense finally woke up Sunday.

    After back-to-back lackluster performances, the Eagles slammed four home runs and racked up 18 hits to defeat The Citadel 17-4 and avoid a series sweep at Riley Park.

    GSU third baseman A.J. Wirnsberger was one of several Eagles who had a big day as the freshman went 3-for-6 with solo bombs in consecutive at-bats, including a shot off the light pole in left to start a five-run rally in the second.

    Designated hitter Kyle Blackburn and first baseman Jeremiah Parker also tallied three hits apiece as the Eagles out-hit The Citadel 18-9. Blackburn’s highlight was a two-out, three-run home run off the light pole in right to give Georgia Southern a 7-2 edge in the second.

    GSU’s offensive explosion came after the Eagles were outscored 17-4 in the first two games of the series.

    “The last two days they came out and pretty much handed it to us,” said senior left hander Josh Lairsey (3-1), who won his third consecutive start. “The only thing we were trying to do is come out and salvage the series. One win is better than three losses, so we did everything we could to stay in the mix of things in the conference and hopefully have a good position coming into the tournament.”

    The Eagles (31-24, 12-12 Southern Conference) have won 11 of their last 13 and are currently tied with Appalachian State for fifth place in the league standings. The top six teams avoid the play-in series in the Southern Conference Tournament, which begins May 22 in Charleston, S.C.

    Wirnsberger’s first homer broke open a 2-2 tie and gave the Eagles a lead they never relinquished. Five batters later Parker’s RBI single made it 4-2 GSU and Blackburn followed with his seventh homer this year.

    Wirnsberger’s second bomb gave the Eagles a single run in the third and GSU scored once in the sixth before right fielder Mike Economos’ three-run shot sailed over the far left corner of the outfield fence to push the Eagles’ lead to 12-4 in the seventh. Economos, who is tied with Chris Shehan for a team-high nine homers, tallied six hits in the weekend series, and Justin “The Naish” Klinger had two hits for the second straight day.

    “The last two days we’ve really struggled offensively, but today our guys really came out and gave us a lift, especially the staff,” Lairsey said. “We used a lot of arms the first two games, and today we were able to stretch it a little longer.”

    Lairsey lasted five innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits. He struck out six and walked three. Drew Murray and A.J. Battisto combined for four innings of scoreless relief.

    The Eagles forced the Bulldogs to use six different pitchers, and starter Matt Reifsnider (3-3) took the loss, surrendering five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.

    Shortstop Brian Pierce also had two hits for the Eagles, who added four runs in the top of the ninth. Georgia Southern plays its final home game Tuesday against Mercer and concludes the regular season with a three-game series at Western Carolina beginning Thursday.

Note: Matt Miller tied a school record with four walks in a game.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.