The Georgia Southern baseball team lost only their second Sun Belt series of the season this past weekend. The visiting Coastal Carolina Chanticleers came into Statesboro on the heels of sweeping their last two Sun Belt opponents and nearly did the same thing in Statesboro. The Eagles lost 5-4 Friday and 6-4 Saturday before coming back to win 3-2 on Sunday.
“I think they came in here playing the best baseball they have played this spring,” said Eagle coach Rodney Hennon. “It was three hard-fought games and all three could have gone either way. They got the big hits on Friday and Saturday and they came with two outs. We had opportunities in both those games but couldn’t come through with the big hit. I was proud that we came back and were able to get the hits on Sunday and got some good pitching as well.”
The Eagles have had a lot of success in close games this year but in the first two games it was Coastal Carolina coming through in clutch situations and holding off an Eagle rally. Sunday the Eagles scored all three runs off of two home runs by Austin Thompson and Noah Ledford. On the mound Thomas Higgins, Anthoy DeMola and Danny Madden combined to allow just two runs on five hits and had 10 strikeouts.
“Austin Thompson gave us the lead, they came back and then Noah Ledford came through with a big home run too,” said Hennon. “On the mound all three guys really came through with Higgins, DeMola and Madden all stepping up. We shut Higgins down a for a while but it was nothing serious. We have been easing him back and he looked good out there today.”
The weekend pitching rotation of Ty Fisher, Jalen Paden and TBA has been pretty effective. The Eagles haven’t been able to decide on a Sunday starter but have done a pretty good job of piecing things together having won their last four Sunday starts.
“We have really just been focusing on what gives us the best shot to win,” said Hennon. “Thomas had some tenderness in his arm so we have been working him back but we didn’t want to overdo it Sunday. We moved Ben Johnson from a starter to the bullpen where he has been effective as well as Danny Madden and Anthony DiMola.”
Much of the Eagles pitching success over the past few weekends has been due to some impressive innings thrown by the Georgia Southern bullpen. Last weekend at South Alabama the Eagles bullpen pitched 13 and 1/3 innings and only allowed one run. This weekend against Coastal Carolina they went 12 and 1/3 innings and allowed only two runs.
“I think you’ve seen all those guys in the bullpen really stepping up for us,” said Hennon. “If we need any of these guys to come in on a Friday or a Saturday or even to start on a Sunday, we feel comfortable with any of them coming in. There is no doubt the more depth you have down the stretch on the mound the better.”
This week the Eagles have exams and so no mid-week game. Hennon feels this comes at a good time as the Eagles are coming off playing eight games in 10 days.
“We gave them Monday and Tuesday off this week,” said Hennon. “Any time you can get the semester behind you it allows for a little more of a relaxed feeling. Juggling classes and travel can really be a grind for those guys. It’s one thing they don’t have to worry about as we make the stretch run.”
Up next the Eagles get to have another weekend home at J.I. Clements stadium as they welcome Troy (28-14, 13-8) for a three-game series starting Friday.
“We have had some great home crowds and hopefully that continues,” said Hennon. “Troy is a good team and is among the top teams in the league in pitching. It’s good to be at home especially after the stretch we had at Louisiana and Texas State. Physically and mentally it’s good to be home another week.”