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Eubanks emerges for Eagles
GSU looks to keep streak alive
EUBANKS 5 col col
Georgia Southern pitcher Aaron Eubanks warms up during practice on Thursday. Eubanks and the Eagles open their final conference homsetand today, hosting Davidson at 7 p.m. at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    Three scoreless innings of relief at Kennesaw State back on Feb. 20 went a long way for Georgia Southern junior Aaron Eubanks.
    Entering this season, it looked like the left hander would be used primarily out of the bullpen, but the solid early season outing proved he was capable of more.
    “That’s when we started thinking that maybe we ought to let him start a ballgame,” said Eagle coach Rodney Hennon.
    A pulled muscle kept Eubanks from making his first start until nearly a month later in the series finale against Lipscomb on March 18. Hennon’s instincts were right as the 6-foot, 215-pound Moultrie native struck out six in 6.1 innings and led his team to a series sweep.
    Eubanks has been steady ever since, eventually working his way into the weekend rotation. Despite starting the year in a smaller capacity, Eubanks said becoming a weekend starter was always in the back of his mind.
    “That’s why you pitch, so you can have that weekend role, a crucial role,” said Eubanks who will take the mound in tonight’s 7 p.m. game against Davidson at J.I. Clements Stadium. “My job is just to do what they call me to do whether it’s sweeping up games that are blow outs one way or the other or pitching Friday. I just do what they tell me.”
    Eubanks (2-2) picked up his second win last Saturday, tossing his first career complete game and striking out a career-high nine batters in GSU’s 12-1 win over Wofford. He sports a 3.50 earned run average in 46.1 innings pitched, while his ERA in Southern Conference games is 2.78, the lowest among Eagle starters.
    “With our up-and-down season, Eubanks has been the guy who’s stepped up and gotten the job done almost every time for us,” said senior outfielder Mike Economos, the reigning SoCon player of the week. “When we’ve needed a big win on the weekend, he’s been the guy to do it for us. He’s been a pleasant surprise.”
    Fatherhood and marriage have helped the 22-year-old pitcher maintain a poise Hennon said he’s always noticed.
    “A big thing with him is he’s got a maturity about him,” Hennon said. “From day one since he’s come in here, he’s always shown that. We made the decision to give him a start, and he’s taken advantage of an opportunity and really given our team a big boost. The biggest thing for him was just getting a chance to go out and pitch, get some innings under his belt, settle in and get some confidence.”

Coming to Statesboro
    Eubanks’ heart has always been in Georgia.
    He grew up in south Georgia and attended Colquitt County High School before heading to Clemson. After redshirting his first year and not pitching the following year, Eubanks asked the Tigers for his release and contacted Hennon about playing for the school he grew up following.
    “I’ve wanted to go to Georgia Southern ever since I was little,” Eubanks said. “My dad went here, so did my grandparents, aunts, uncles. I’ve got a lot of roots here. Georgia Southern had some injuries, I knew they needed some pitching and I really wanted to get back in the state of Georgia.”
    Eubanks and his wife Katheryn married on Aug. 13, 2005, and he showed up for classes at GSU two days later. With three years of eligibility remaining, Eubanks walked on the team, started once in 16 appearances in 2006 and eventually earned a scholarship for this season. Last fall, Hennon noticed the improvements Eubanks made over the summer and felt like he’d be able to contribute more his second year with the team.
    The Eubanks welcomed their first child, Gabe, in September. Juggling a marriage and a seven-month-old son with the demands of baseball and school might sound like a lot, but Eubanks sees his busy life as motivation.
    “It gives me inspiration to really push forward,” said Eubanks, who aspires to teach history and coach baseball. “They say all NCAA athletes go professional, most of them in something other than sports. So this is my shot. Everybody that plays baseball at this level believes they can make it, so I’m just in it trying to get something for Georgia Southern and bring home a SoCon championship. Hopefully one day I can play big-league ball, but you’ve always got to secure yourself with academics. That’s motivated me to do well in school and graduate as soon as possible.”
    Tonight Eubanks and the Eagles (27-22, 8-10) will look to keep their seven-game win streak alive. Georgia Southern has won its last two SoCon series and is tied with The Citadel for sixth place in the league standings. GSU had the week off for final exams and hasn’t played since sweeping the Terriers at home last weekend.
    “We’re feeling pretty good,” Eubanks said. “We’ve been playing some good baseball the last few weeks, so we are feeling strong and hope that we can carry it on into this weekend.”

Senior Day is Sunday
    Georgia Southern will honor its eight seniors prior to Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. game. Seniors are: A.J. Battisto, Mike Chiciak, David Cogswell, John Ducey, Chris Hollis, Justin Klinger, Josh Lairsey and Economos.

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