Georgia Southern seemed to be well on its way to a 4-0 start to the 2015 season, but Kel Johnson launched a seventh–inning grand slam to pave the way for a 7-4 Georgia Tech win over the Eagles Tuesday night at J.I. Clements Stadium.
The Eagles (3-1) scored three runs in the fourth inning to take a lead and added another for a 4-1 advantage after six innings.
Caleb Pressey fanned the first two Yellow Jacket batters in the top of the seventh, but was pulled after allowing a single to Wade Bailey. Tripp Sheppard relieved Pressey, but allowed a single to Daniel Spingola before hitting Thomas Smith with a pitch.
Sheppard worked a 2-2 count on Johnson, but the Jackets’ freshman rifled a hanging curve ball off of the scoreboard in left center to give Georgia Tech (3-1) the lead.
“Give Georgia Tech credit,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “They got the big hit when they needed it.”
The Jackets extended their late lead in the eighth inning, aided by a pair of walks issued by Eagle reliever Charles Sheffield.
Anthony Paesano entered for Georgia Southern and recorded a fly out, but a single by Brandon Gold loaded the bases and Bailey (3-for-3, 2B, 3 RBI) doubled down the left field line to make it a 7-4 Yellow Jacket advantage.
“Everybody remembers the (grand slam),” Hennon said. “But their freshman, Bailey, was in the middle of everything tonight.”
Georgia Tech’s late rally spoiled the breakout performance by Eagle designated hitter Spencer Duffie. Making just his second appearance in the batting order this season, Duffie smacked a two-out, two-run single down the right field line to put Georgia Southern ahead 2-1 in the fourth inning.
Leading 3-1 in the sixth, Duffie continued his two-out magic, singling home Hunter Thomas with a liner into right.
“(Duffie) gave us good, quality at-bats,” Hennon said. “He seems very confident in the box and he’s making things happen.”
Georgia Southern starter Ryan Frederick was mostly effective, allowing just one run on a bunt single by Bailey in 2.2 innings, but was pulled after throwing 52 pitches in that short timeframe.
Jason Richman relieved Frederick, making his third appearance in four games for the Eagles. Richman worked 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit and a walk while striking out three and keeping Georgia Tech off of the scoreboard.
Pressey entered the game after Richman and pitched a clean sixth inning before running into trouble in the decisive seventh.
Georgia Tech starter Ben Schniederjans labored through four innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs. Tanner Shelton allowed the Eagles’ final run over his 1.2 innings of work, but it was Zac Ryan who recorded the win for the Jackets, striking out four in his 3.1 innings of work.
The Eagles now have a couple of off days before welcoming West Virginia to town. Georgia Southern will host the Mountaineers at 6 p.m. on Friday to open the series. Saturday’s start time has been moved up to 1 p.m. from its original 2 p.m. slot and Sunday’s game has been moved up half an hour to 12:30 p.m.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.