The Georgia Southern baseball team continued to roll through the Sun Belt Conference. The Eagles earned their third conference sweep of the season as they took three from South Alabama on the road in Mobile winning 5-4 Friday, 7-4 on Saturday and finished the sweep with a 7-2 victory on Sunday.
The Eagles (27-12, 14-4) entered the week ranked as high as 19 in the NCAA college baseball polls, but were dealt a setback Wednesday as they lost a lead late and fell to Florida State 6-5 in 11 innings. Rather than let that loss get them down the Eagles responded handing South Alabama their first sweep at home since 2014. The Eagle bullpen was the story of the weekend as they combined to go 13.1 innings allowing only one run while striking out 12.
“It was a great weekend as we swept a really good team and I am proud of the way we rebounded after losing to FSU Wednesday. It says a lot about these guys for losing an extra inning game Wednesday, but they managed to focus on the next series. I was especially proud of the guys in the bullpen for really stepping up.”
Friday the Eagles got a solid effort on the mound from Ty Fisher who gave up two earned runs in seven innings of work. The Eagles trailed 3-2 in the top of the ninth, but scored three runs as Austin Thompson hit a solo homer to tie the game. Jason Swan and Christian Avant followed that with RBI singles, and Jay Thompson (4-1) closed things out on the mound.
“It’s always huge to get that first one on Friday,” said Hennon. “I really think Ty Fisher did a great job on the mound. He is a fearless competitor and I think the team has a lot of confidence when he is on the mound. Our seniors once again came through at the plate as well.”
Saturday the Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead led by Jason Swan going 2-4 with three RBI. Things got a little tight as the Jaguars scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the bullpen duo of Jake Martin and Ben Johnson combined to allow just one hit while striking out five in four innings of relief from starter Jalen Payden.
“Saturday Jalen really gutted it though out there,” said Hennon. "His teammates picked him up with run support on offense and then the bullpen came in and did their job.”
Sunday the Eagles spotted the Jags a 2-0 lead, and then the Georgia Southern bullpen completely shut down the South Alabama offense. Hayden Harris didn’t make it through the second inning, but Anthony DiMola, Ga’Von Wray, Danny Madden and Jay Thompson combined to allow five hits and no runs over 7.1 innings. Wray (7-1) earned the win and Thompson notched his sixth save of the season.
“We thought Hayden threw the ball really well in Tallahassee,” said Hennon. “We knew we had some guys who were fresh and felt good about bringing them in. The plan was to give the ball to Hayden, but if he got in trouble, we felt like we had guys that we could go to and they did a great job stepping up. Those guys came in and put up zeros and gave our offense a chance,”
Speaking of the offense, Sunday’s game also saw the return of Eagle catcher J.P. Tighe who went 2-4 including hitting a home run. Christian Avant capped a nice series going 3-5 with three RBI and a home run.
“It was great to see J.P. come back off the injury,” said Hennon. His home run really sparked us. What I really like is J.P. and Kyler Hultgren play the same position, but they are really rooting for each other out there. They just want the team to succeed and that is great to see. Jesse Sherrill was a late scratch and I was also proud of Blake Evans for coming in and playing well.”
Next up the Eagles begin an eight-game home stand which starts Tuesday with a 6:00 start against Kennesaw State. The Eagles and Owls play again Wednesday at 6:00. This weekend the Eagles host Coastal Carolina Friday at 6:30, Saturday 2:00 and Sunday at 1:00.
“It will be great to be back home as we have another challenging week ahead,” said Hennon. “We have five games this week so that will present some opportunities for some guys from a pitching standpoint. Kennesaw State is having a good season, and then Coastal comes in this weekend and they are one of the top teams in our league.”