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Parker powering hot Eagles
GSU heads to Furman for regular-season finale
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Georgia Southern first baseman Jeremiah Parker just misses the tag on Jacksonville's Thomas Myers in the first inning on Wednesday, April 30 at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    Jeremiah Parker certainly made the most of his final outing at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    Georgia Southern’s senior first baseman was on fire during Saturday’s double header against UNC Greensboro, starting the day by slamming two home runs — a three-run shot and his first-career grand slam — to rack up a personal-best seven RBIs. In the opener, he tied his career-high with four hits and matched GSU’s single-game record with five runs scored.
    “Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone,” Parker said of the sixth-inning grand slam, which marked his fourth-career two home run game. “It feels good — you don’t really have a feeling like that too (often). I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, especially with runners in scoring position. I think it was the first pitch of the at-bat. I got a pretty good piece and did what I was supposed to with it.”
    He drove in two more runs during the nightcap, GSU’s last home game of the year, to bring his RBI total for the day to nine.
    “He probably had the best Senior Day of anybody I’ve ever seen,” Eagle hitting coach Mike Tidick said. “It was awesome for him because he deserved it. He’s been a hard-working kid in our program ever since he got here. He didn’t play much his first two years, but he’s really reaping the benefits now.”
    These days, Parker is the Eagles’ everyday first baseman, but the versatile athlete is also a reliable catcher and has started in the outfield.
    Similar to a year ago, Parker had a slow start to the season but has been red-hot down the stretch. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Carrollton native said his recent success has a lot to do with building up his confidence, which is clearly picking up steam. He’s batting .319 with 65 hits, 61 RBIs and 11 home runs in 51 games.
    “He’s found his rhythm at the plate,” Tidick said. “I think with him bouncing back (between) first base and catching helps him stay in rhythm. He’s obviously figured it out.”
    Teammates and coaches describe Parker as soft-spoken and well-respected.
    “When he talks people listen,” starting pitcher Drew Murray said. “He’s one of those people who’s going to lead us. If we are going to be successful in the postseason, he’s going to be the one to lead us.”
    Eagle head coach Rodney Hennon praised Parker’s solid defense at first and behind the plate, and GSU coaches are hoping his experience, which includes playing in the Southern Conference tournament’s championship game in 2005, will help the team in the upcoming weeks.
    The Eagles (31-21, 15-9) are currently jockeying for the best possible seed (second is the highest they could get) in next week’s SoCon tournament. They conclude the regular-season with a three-game series at Furman (29-21, 15-9) beginning today at 7 p.m. The Eagles and the Paladins are tied for third place in the league standings.
    “It feels weird just to know that these are my last couple games as an Eagle, but we’re playing good as a team,” said Parker, who plans to graduate in the fall with a major in general studies and remain with the program as a volunteer assistant coach. “Hopefully we can go into Furman, take the series from them and get a good seed for the tournament.”
    Notes: Coming off a weekend sweep of UNC Greensboro, GSU has won four-straight SoCon series. “I think we are playing our best baseball right now,” Hennon said…Furman was the hottest team in the league, having won 13 consecutive SoCon games before being swept at Appalachian State last weekend…The Paladins are 21-9 at home this season, and the Eagles are 9-11 on the road.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 498-9413.