Eagles Hit Four Homers, Hold Off App State to Advance
GREENVILLE, S.C. Kyle Blackburn (Marietta/Walton) tied two Southern Conference Tournament records and Dexter Bobo (Cumming/Darton College) shut the door late on Appalachian State as Georgia Southern advanced following a 6-5 win on Thursday (May 21) at Fluor Field.
The Eagles (40-15) captured their 40th win on the season, the seventh time in program history hitting that milestone and first since the 2001 season. They used the long ball, clutch pitching and key defense to advance in the bracket. GS will flip over to the other side of the bracket and play next on Saturday (May 23) at 1 p.m. The opponent will be determined on Friday night (Furman, Elon or Western Carolina).
With one out in the second, Blackburn launched a solo homer to right field off Josh Dowdy the first earned run allowed by Dowdy in his career against the Eagles (three unearned runs total) for a 1-0 lead.
The Mountaineers (33-20) got a two-out RBI triple from Jerod Faggart in their half to tie the score, then on the very next pitch Jake Brown (Forest Hill, MD/Pitt CC) uncorked a wild pitch allowing Faggart to score and a 2-1 ASU lead.
In the Eagles’ half of the third, Kevin Bowles (Statesboro/Statesboro) beat out an infield single to start it off. Ty Wright (Montrose/ABAC) launched a shot that cleared the Green Monster’ in left and then some, his 10th homer of the year to give GS a 3-2 lead.
Roman Grimaldi (Duluth/North Florida CC) hit a shot up the middle that deflected off Dowdy’s glove and he reached on an infield single. Griffin Benedict’s (Dunwoody/St. Pius) first base hit of the tournament came when he launched a 2-run homer over the right field fence. His 11th home run of the year gave the Eagles a 5-2 lead.
David Towarnicky started off the fifth with a single, took second on a groundout, third on a balk by Brown then scored when Ryan Arrowood lined a two-out single to left. Blackburn and the Eagles wasted no time getting the run back.
On a 3-2 pitch in the sixth, Blackburn hammered another solo home run to right field. It marked the fourth time in his career he hit two homers the second time this year and second time in his career against the Mountaineers. He became the fifth Eagle this year to reach double-digits (10 this season). There were only nine home runs hit in the six previous 2009 SoCon Tournament games combined.
Brown got key plays from his defense in the sixth and seventh. After a leadoff single by Faggart, Brown got Rand Smith to hit into a 5-4-3 double play then got out of the 6-pitch inning thanks to a groundout to Brian Pierce (Roswell/Roswell). Smith had grounded into just one double play in 232 at-bats this season. After Brown gave up a one-out walk to David Towarnicky, he induced a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.
Blackburn hit a leadoff triple in the eighth, the first of his career. He tied SoCon Tournament records hitting two home runs and accounting for 11 total bases. That was done only four other times in Tournament history, including once by former teammate Jeremiah Parker (vs. UNC Greensboro in 2008).
ASU got back-to-back singles to start off the eighth inning, chasing Brown. Charles Matthews (Athens/Spartanburg Methodist) got a groundout that advanced both runners then Faggart followed with a RBI single. He hit Smith to put runners on the corners, and that prompted head coach Rodney Hennon to bring in Bobo.
He got a grounder from Wes Hobson, but the Eagles were not able to turn two and another run scored. Bobo ran a fastball to Isaac Harrow on the inside corner for a called third strike to end the threat.
Towarnicky led off the ninth with a single. Chris Alessandria could not execute a sacrifice bunt and eventually popped out to Pierce. Bobo got Nick DeRose on a three-pitch strikeout then pinch-hitter Jeremy Dowdy, who fouled off a few pitches, grounded out to Eric Phillips (Carrollton/Carrollton) at first to clinch the win.
Hennon knew this would be a hard fought game against App State.
“I thought we did a good job of keeping our poise late when we got in a jam. I thought Dexter (Bobo) did a nice job keeping his composure on the mound and staying aggressive, and defensively we made the plays. I’m proud of our team as a whole. It was a well played game on both sides and in order to win this thing it starts with your pitching and defense,” said Hennon. “You’ve got to bring that to the park everyday and certainly we got some big hits to complement that today and give us the lead.
“This is the position you want to be in at this point in the tournament. I think we have some confidence and momentum coming off a win like that,” admitted Hennon. “I knew it was going to be a tough game because they have played just as well and anyone in the league in the second half of the season.”
A.J. Wirnsberger (Tuscaloosa, AL/Paul Bryant) and Phillip Porter (Marietta/Sprayberry) both recorded hits to extend their hitting streaks to 14 games each. Pierce saw his career-high streak end at 12 and Phillips’ season-high of 11 also came to an end. Pierce played in his 224th career game, tying Tyson Whitley for 10th place all-time.
Blackburn recorded three hits, two runs and two RBI. Benedict also finished with two hits. The senior catcher took sole possession of eighth place all-time in hits (267), a tie for eighth in RBI (187) and moved into a four-way tie for 10th in doubles (51).
Brown (6-3) gave up five runs on 12 hits in seven innings (tying for second-longest outing of the season). He walked three and struck out four. Bobo earned his third save giving up the one hit and striking out two in 1.2 innings.
Josh Dowdy (6-3) was charged for six runs on eight hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out seven. Faggart recorded four hits and Towarnicky finished with three as the Mountaineers out-hit GS 14-10. Appy had the second-best record in the country over the final 31 games heading into the tournament at 26-5, only behind top-ranked UC Irvine.
- Category: Baseball
- Published on Thursday, 21 May 2009 21:05