A night after being shut out, Ryan Cleveland smashed his 12th home run of the season, the Eagles built two different three-run leads, and five pitchers got the job done as Georgia Southern held off UL Lafayette for a 6-5 victory that evened their series Saturday night.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (28-18-1, 14-8-1 Sun Belt) showed their resolve as defending Sun Belt champions. Trailing 3-0 in the third inning, the Cajuns tied it up on a three-run shot by Steven Sensley off of Eagle starter Chase Cohen.
Georgia Southern scored three more in the top of the sixth and UL Lafayette rallied for a pair in the bottom half before the Eagles’ bullpen slammed the door. Connor Simmons got Georgia Southern out of a jam in the sixth to retain the lead and worked a clean seventh before giving way to closer Landon Hughes.
Hughes has answered the bell all season for the Eagles (31-16, 14-9) and came up clutch once more Saturday night. The hard-throwing righty has racked up all kinds of decisions this season. Hughes has a 6-1 record over 23 appearances and locked up his seventh save on Saturday, retiring six of the seven ULL batters he faced.
Georgia Southern took the lead in the third and snapped a 23-inning scoreless streak against the Cajuns when Steven Curry slapped a single to center that drove in Jordan Wren. On the next pitch by ULL starter Colten Schmidt, Cleveland sent a fastball soaring over the wall in right for a 3-0 lead.
Following Sensley’s rebuttal in the bottom of the third, Cohen settled in. The Eagle sophomore earned the win, going 5.2 innings and racking up an impressive 10 strikeouts.
Armed with a 6-3 lead in the sixth inning, Cohen retired the first two batters of the frame, but was lifted after issuing a walk and a single. Anthony Paesano relieved Cohen, but was replaced by Jacob Condra-Bogan after allowing an RBI single to Brenn Conrad. Condra-Bogan allowed another run to score after firing a wayward pickoff attempt and walked the only batter he faced before Simmons was able to put out the fire.
Georgia Southern took the lead in the top of the sixth with plenty of timely hitting.
Logan Baldwin’s leadoff single knocked Schmidt out of the game before Wren and C.J. Brazil singled off of Evan Guillory, the latter pushing the Eagles to a 4-3 lead. A sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Tyler Martin, who took a Guillory fastball back through the box for a two-run single.
Georgia Southern helped its cause by putting the ball in play consistently. Aside from a rough 4-strikeout night by Mitchell Golden, the rest of the Eagles fanned just twice on the night.
Getting the ball to Hughes has continued to be a good sign for the Eagles’ pitching staff. Georgia Southern has won 19 of the 23 games in which Hughes has appeared. Saturday’s win made it 14 consecutive GS wins in games where Hughes has pitched.
With the win, the Eagles kept pace in their division. Georgia Southern sits two games behind first place South Alabama and half a game behind Coastal Carolina for second. The Eagles and Cajuns will play for the series win today, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. Freshman Seth Shuman will get his first weekend start for the Eagles.