Entering the 2020 season, one of the biggest question marks for Georgia Southern Baseball was how it would handle losing many of its most trusted pitchers from the previous season.
The early answer seems to be, ‘without much trouble at all.’
Junior college transfer Jordan Jackson got the opening night nod against Ball State on Friday and put on a show, striking out nine and allowing just three hits over five innings to earn a win as the Eagles claimed a 6-0 victory at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Tyler Owens and Jacob Parker were both reliable arms on the Georgia Southern staff last season and combined for four more strikeouts in three innings of effective relief of Jackson. In the ninth, another transfer took the mound and left-hander Jay Thompson made a glowing first impression as he tossed a perfect frame to slam the door on the Eagle victory.
The 6-0 final score looked comfortable, but the game was well over two hours old before the Eagles were in control.
Ball State starter John Baker matched Jackson nearly pitch for pitch as the Cardinals’ righty struck out seven over five innings, allowing only one run when Mitchell Golden raced home on a wild pitch in the fourth inning.
The Georgia Southern batting order managed just three hits over the first seven innings, but let loose a night’s worth of frustrations on Ball State reliever Tyler Ruetschle in the eighth.
Mason McWhorter and Parker Biederer drew walks and a single by Golden loaded the bases with one out. Jason Swan broke the game open with a three-run double to the wall in center and freshman third baseman Jarrett Brown put an exclamation point on the evening by launching a two-run home run out to left field for his first hit as an Eagle.
Golden was the Eagles’ biggest weapon in the batting order. The junior was the only Georgia Southern player to record multiple hits and also drew a pair of walks to reach base safely in all four of his trips to the plate. Golden started at third base in both 2017 and 2018, but missed all of last season to an arm injury and was the team’s designated hitter on Friday.
The bottom of the order did the majority of the damage for the Eagles.
Golden got things started for the 6-spot in the lineup. Swan was right behind him and dealt the game’s biggest blow while catcher Matt Anderson collected a double from the 8-spot. Brown rounded out the order and drew a walk before ending his night with the eighth-inning home run.
Friday’s victory marked the first time since 2015 that the Eagles have notched a win in their first game of the season.
Georgia Southern and Ball State will put in a full day’s effort on Saturday as the teams compete in a day-night doubleheader. The first game is slated to begin at Noon, with the Eagles sending left-hander Braden Hays to the mound against Ball State righty Kyle Nicolas. Saturday’s second game is scheduled for 6 p.m., with Georgia Southern listing right-hander David Johnson as a starter against Cardinals lefty Mike Pachmeyer.