Eagles Prepare for SoCon Baseball Tournament
STATESBORO, Ga. Georgia Southern will kick off the 2009 Southern Conference Baseball Tournament when it will face Davidson at 9 a.m. on Wednesday (May 20). The second-seeded Eagles are looking for their fourth SoCon title, and will do so in a new venue.
For the first time since 1989 the postseason tournament will not be held in Charleston, South Carolina. This year’s tournament will be held at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., home of the Class A Greenville Drive. For tickets and complete tournament information, please visit www.GreenvilleDrive.com or www.SoConSports.com.
Every baseball game can be heard on the Georgia Southern Radio Network, flagship station Eagle 102.9 FM in Statesboro, and via the internet at www.GeorgiaSouthernEagles.com. Ryan Chambers will call the game and the broadcast will begin 30 minutes before first pitch. Fans inside Fluor Field can listen to the Eagles’ radio call on 101.7 FM (subject to change).
If the Eagles win their opening round game, they will face the winner of #3 The Citadel/#6 Appalachian State on Thursday at 5 p.m. A loss would mean GS plays the loser of the previous game at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The top eight teams in the final Southern Conference standings qualified for the tournament, which features two four-team double-elimination brackets producing a single-elimination championship game at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 24. The championship game will be televised by SportSouth on tape delay at 7:30 p.m. Sunday evening. The tournament winner earns the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Baseball Championships.
Georgia Southern head coach Rodney Hennon is looking forward to the new venue.
“We are certainly looking forward to it, Fluor Field is a nice ball park. This is our first time playing there so we’re exciting about going somewhere different, and it will be interesting to see how the tournament does there.”
Georgia Southern has won two SoCon titles under Hennon (2002 and 2000) while also winning the 1996 trophy. After posting a 38-15 overall record and 20-8 in the SoCon (second place), the Eagles are looking to capture the title and make a run at another NCAA Regionals appearance. To do so, Hennon said what it will take.
“We’re going to have to pitch and play defense and do the little things offensively. I think I kind of say that every year and I don’t think that will ever change,” said Hennon. “That’s the name of the game, especially come tournament time.”
Hennon and the Eagles extended their streak to 10 straight seasons of 30-plus wins, doing so every year that the veteran head coach has been in charge of the program. The 38 wins already tie for ninth-most in a season, and the most accumulated by the Eagles during the regular season since 2001 (39 in regular season, 42-20 overall). Following a regular season finale sweep against Wofford, GS enters the tournament on a three-game win streak for the first time in six years.
“It was good and important to finish off on a positive note. As a whole as we went into the season we wanted to be an improved team from a pitching standpoint, and I think overall we have made a lot of strides there. I think the strength of our team has been a factor that during the regular season we have had pretty good pitching, played good, solid defense and were able to find ways to score. We have had a lot of different guys contribute to our team during the regular season, which I think was important and is something that can help us as we go into the postseason,” said Hennon.
Junior right-hander Chris Mederos (Valdosta/Gordon College) was named First Team All-SoCon this week, and is scheduled to start against Davidson. Improving to 10-1 on the year following his win over Wofford last Friday, Mederos lowered his ERA to 4.00 in 81 innings pitched. He has struck out 94 batters to 26 walks allowed and opponents are batting .270. He struck out six or more batters in 11 of his 13 starts this year.
Overall he continues to lead the SoCon in wins and strikeouts while ranking third in innings pitched and fourth in ERA.
The Eagles have also gotten quality weekend starts from a pair of newcomers as well. Junior left-hander Jake Brown (Forest Hill, MD/Pitt CC) dropped into a tie for fifth in the SoCon with a 4.36 ERA. Brown owns a 5-3 record and struck out 54 batters in 74.1 innings (tied ninth SoCon). In league play Brown posted a 4-1 record and 4.01 ERA. Matt Murray (Spring City, PA/Owen Roberts) earned a spot on the SoCon All-Freshman team, holding down the number three starter role this year. He brings a 5-3 record into the SoCon Tournament. The right-hander started in 12 of his 14 appearances and struck out 49 batters in 66.2 innings, posting a 5.13 ERA. Four of his five wins came in league play.
Senior Kyle Kamppi (Savannah/Benedictine) has accounted for eight of the team’s 12 saves and owns a 2-2 record and 3.78 ERA. The lone senior on the pitching staff, Kamppi has fanned 37 batters in 33.1 innings.
Hennon stated how much the team’s eight seniors have meant to the program.
“They have meant an awful lot to the program in a lot of different ways. Not only the success on the field - they’ve provided great leadership there for this team - but also they will enhance our program off the field as well. They have done an outstanding job in the classroom and set a great example for the younger players and in the community as well,” said Hennon. “We’ve received great support from the community as we always have, but I think a lot of people in the community have really connected with these guys during their time here at Georgia Southern. It has been special playing at home this year in front of the crowds and the support that we’ve gotten. I think a big part of that is certainly what you do on the field being successful and winning games. But also being able to connect with others and our guys carry themselves well, especially those seniors, and it’s been special.”
Despite being one of 13 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award (given to the nation’s top catcher) and the only representative from the Southern Conference, senior Griffin Benedict (Dunwoody/St. Pius) earned Second Team honors behind the plate. His .415 batting average ranks fourth in the SoCon, and he enters the week third with a .534 on-base percentage. He is on the verge of becoming just the 13th player in program history to hit .400 in a season, and for the second time in his career he recorded 50 runs scored/50 RBI.
Benedict has scored 59 runs and driven in 54 this season, along with his 14 doubles and 10 home runs. The senior has also walked (31) more times than has struck out (23), and ranks third nationally getting hit by a pitch 22 times.
Junior third baseman A.J. Wirnsberger (Tuscaloosa, AL/Paul Bryant) is the reigning SoCon Player of the Week’. Thanks to his .513 batting average during the month of May, Wirnsberger is up to .324 overall with 38 runs scored and team-leading numbers in home runs (13) and RBI (55). He brings a 12-game hitting streak into the tournament, and in the regular season finale hit his 38th career home run, tying him for 10th place among the GS all-time leaders.
Senior shortstop Brian Pierce (Roswell/Roswell) is batting .500 during his career-high 11-game hit streak, now second on the team with a .365 overall clip at the plate. He has scored 36 runs and driven in 38 while posting a .973 fielding percentage. He has played in 222 career games, two away from joining the career Top 10’ list.
In fact, eight different Eagles are batting .333 or better during May. Phillip Porter (Marietta/Sprayberry) is at .488 during the month and .363 overall, riding a 12-game hit streak into this week. The senior outfielder is second on the team scoring 61 runs and has hit 11 home runs, driven in 49 and stolen 11 bases.
Fellow senior outfielder Ty Wright (Montrose/ABAC) leads the way scoring 65 runs from his leadoff spot, but has also hit nine home runs and 13 doubles to record 52 RBI. Despite not recording a stolen base in a month, Wright still leads the team at 15-of-18.
Eric Phillips (Carrollton/Carrollton) also earned a spot on the SoCon All-Freshman Team. He has started at every infield position this year, batting .345 with 39 runs scored, 12 doubles, three home runs, 40 RBI and 15 walks to 15 strikeouts in 171 at-bats. Phillips owns a .981 fielding percentage. He leads the team batting .413 in league play and also has a double-digit hit streak heading into the tournament at 10 games.
According to Hennon, part of the team’s success this year has been not having to rely on just one person in the lineup.
“There hasn’t been a situation where we had to count on just the middle of the order. We’ve gotten contributions like I said from a lot of different guys throughout the course of the season and it has been pretty balanced from top to bottom.”
The Eagles rank fifth in the SoCon with a .326 team batting average, stand second in ERA (5.08) and continues to lead the league with a .974 fielding percentage.
Davidson enters the tournament as the seventh-seed but on a four-game losing streak and having dropped eight of its last nine. Georgia Southern swept the Wildcats at J.I. Clements Stadium in mid-April by a combined 43-17 margin (12-7, 20-8, and 11-2). However, in 2004 (the last time Davidson faced the Eagles in the first round) the then-seventh seed Wildcats defeated GS 5-2. The two teams are 2-2 all-time in tournament play.
Davidson brings a .279 team batting average, 7.13 ERA and .951 fielding percentage into the tournament.
Second Team All-SoCon DH Danny Weiss has a .340 batting average, scoring 29 runs while driving in 36. All-Freshman Team member Drew Gadaire is second on the team with 11 home runs, including two during the series against the Eagles. Chase FitzPatrick leads the team with 14 homers and 43 RBI.
Chris Lamb is listed as a probable starter. The freshman left-hander is 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA in 50.2 innings, striking out 42 to 33 walks issued. In his last start during game one of the Western Carolina series, Lamb was charged for three runs (two earned) on five hits in 5.1 innings. He struck out six and walked four.
- Category: Baseball
- Published on Monday, 18 May 2009 18:30