Matt Murray Pitches Eagles Into SoCon Title Game
GREENVILLE, S.C. Matt Murray (Spring City, PA/Owen Roberts) turned in one of best pitching performances of the year and Georgia Southern hit a pair of 3-run homers, eliminating Furman 16-4 in the 2009 Southern Conference Tournament. The Eagles (41-15 overall) advance to the title game for the first time since 2005 and fifth time this decade.
With the win, Georgia Southern will face the winner of Elon/The Citadel at 2 p.m. Sunday (May 24). GS is also aiming for its fourth tournament title in program history.
The freshman right-hander struck out a career-high 11 batters in his first-ever postseason appearance. No Eagle pitcher had recorded double-digit strikeouts in the last three years, now the feat has been accomplished three times over the last six starts.
Murray retired the first 12 batters he faced in order to set the tone for the offense. In fact, the freshman retired the last 26 batters he faced consecutively, dating back to his previous start against Wofford.
According to head coach Rodney Hennon, getting that first run played a big role in the win.
“The one run we got in the first was big. Matt Murray did a great job of setting the tone early and getting us off to a good start with a 1-2-3 first and putting a zero up. In their situation, we knew and they knew they were thin from a pitching standpoint, so to be able to get on the board and jump out to a lead first I thought was very important in the ballgame,” said Hennon. “We got the big triple from Roman Grimaldi in the first, and Griffin Benedict got down in the count but did a nice job fighting off some pitches and getting us a ground ball to get us on the board and get us a lead.”
A.J. Wirnsberger (Tuscaloosa, AL/Paul Bryant) dropped down a bunt to start the second inning. After two flyouts, Kevin Bowles (Statesboro/Statesboro) reached on a fielding error by the pitcher putting runners on the corners. Ty Wright (Montrose/ABAC) lined a RBI single to center, prompting a pitching change.
Stephen Gary walked Grimaldi on a full count to load the bases. Benedict ripped a 2-run single up the middle, then Porter followed with another run-scoring single up the middle and 5-0 lead.
Wirnsberger and Eric Phillips (Carrollton/Carrollton) singled to start the third inning. Brian Pierce (Roswell/Roswell) executed a sacrifice bunt then Bowles followed with a 2-run shot into the left field gap.
The Eagles got more two-out hitting in the sixth. Wright launched a 3-run homer over the Green Monster’, the second time in the tournament hitting a shot over the fence and 11th homer this year.
After Benedict drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, Wirnsberger hit a high drive off the Green Monster’ for a RBI double and 11-1 lead.
Furman (24-31) plated three runs in the eighth but again Georgia Southern responded with two outs. An error and wild pitch on a strikeout, both coming with two outs, brought home one run. Pierce lined a RBI single to left then Bowles followed with his third home run of the year, a 3-run blast over the Green Monster’ for the final margin.
For the third straight game, Georgia Southern’s starter went seven innings.
“You need your starters to go deep in the tournament. We’ve been very fortunate - we’ve got three good starts. It didn’t matter who we played today, when you’re at this point in the tournament and you’re that close to the championship, regardless of who you’re playing, you just want to go out and find a way to win and get there,” said Hennon. “(Furman head coach) Ron Smith does a great job, and his kids made a good run and played hard, but I’m proud of our guys. We had a lot of momentum today. I think getting the lead early was important, and each inning they scored, we answered it, and I think that was big. Any time they got momentum, we shut it off and were able to answer it and able to get momentum back on our side.”
Bowles matched a career-high in hits (a triple shy of hitting for the cycle) and set a new high with five RBI. Porter and Wirnsberger also tallied three hits apiece. Wright had two hits and season-high four RBI. Wirnsberger matched a career-high scoring four times. Wirnsberger and Porter both extended their hitting streaks to 15 games.
Murray (6-3) gave up the one run on just three hits, walking four and striking out 11.
Starter Marc DeDecker (2-1), one of six Paladin pitchers, was charged for four runs on four hits in 1.2 innings. Five different Furman hitters recorded a hit.
- Category: Baseball
- Published on Saturday, 23 May 2009 18:14