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Eagle baseball ends season in Tallahassee


June 03, 2014

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    What a ride! I just hate it had to come to an end.
    After winning the Southern Conference tournament championship for the sixth time in program history, Georgia Southern baseball traveled to Tallahassee last weekend for its 14th NCAA regional appearance.
    The fourth-seeded Eagles faced regional host and the No. 5 national seed Florida State on Friday night — and Georgia Southern absolutely spanked the Seminoles. Early on, the Eagles were leaving too many men on base, and I was worried those missed opportunities would come back to bite them. But Sam Howard turned in a pitching performance the Eagle Nation won’t soon forget, allowing just two hits in a 135-pitch, complete-game shutout. Southern was able to tack on some late runs to cruise to a 7-0 victory.
    Kennesaw State, the hottest team in the country (23-1 in their last 24 games) entering regional play, beat Alabama in its opening game to set up a Saturday-night matchup between Georgia Southern and KSU, while Alabama and Florida State played an elimination game Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Tide ended the Seminoles’ season with a 6-5 win and awaited the loser of the Georgia Southern-Kennesaw State game.
    Things looked really good early on for the Eagles after they scored four runs in the first inning to take a 4-1 lead. Southern led 5-3 when lightning delayed the game in the top of the sixth inning with two on and one out for Kennesaw. After a nearly two-hour delay, Eagle reliever Jason Richman attempted a pick-off at second base, which hit the runner and sailed into right-center field. Both runners scored on the play, and the game was tied.
    Both bullpens held until the top of the 11th, when things came unraveled for the Eagles. Eight unearned runs crossed the plate, and the Owls took the late-night 13-5 win, sending Georgia Southern into the loser’s bracket to face Alabama on Sunday.
    Alabama got a lights-out pitching performance from freshman starter Geoffrey Blamblett, who went the distance to shut out the Eagles. He allowed just two hits and walked two while striking out seven. The Tide won 6-0, and Georgia Southern’s season came to an end.
    After a scorching hot 15-2 start to the season, the Eagles cooled off big time when conference play began, and it appeared the wheels were falling off. Southern dropped 17 of 30 at one point during the season, but head coach Rodney Hennon was able to hold the team together to win six of the last seven regular-season games.
    The Eagles then reeled off five wins in a row after falling into the loser’s bracket of the SoCon tournament, winning the program’s final SoCon tournament title. Finally, Southern smacked the No. 5 team in the country on their home field before seeing the season come to a close with a final record of 40-23 — Georgia Southern’s 10th 40-win season in program history.
    Looking ahead to next year, the Eagles will miss seniors Stryker Brown, Ben Morgan, Garren Palmer and Matt McCall. Some juniors may leave for the draft and would be missed greatly, but the core the Eagles have returning is solid, and I like Georgia Southern’s chances to make some noise in the Sun Belt in 2015.
    Speaking of the Eagles’ future in the Sun Belt, Georgia Southern got some exciting news last week. The Sun Belt Conference announced championship sites for the next three seasons, and three Sun Belt Conference championships will be held in Statesboro over the next few years.
    The 2014 men’s soccer championship will be held at Georgia Southern — that’s this fall, for those of you scoring at home. Next fall, Hanner Fieldhouse will host the 2015 Sun Belt volleyball tournament, and in the spring of 2017, the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament will be held at Georgia Southern’s J.I. Clements Stadium. This is huge news, not just for Georgia Southern but the entire Statesboro community.
    The 2013–2014 sports season has come to a conclusion along with Georgia Southern’s tenure in the Southern Conference. Enjoy your summer, Eagle Nation. I have a feeling this fall is going to be a lot of fun.

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