GSU hope to cage Bulldogs

Colin Ritsick

After an eight-game road swing and losing two consecutive Southern Conference series, the Georgia Southern University baseball team will face off against The Citadel this weekend at home.

The Eagles (21-11, 10-5 SoCon) held a commanding lead over the conference with an 8-1 record and were touting an eight-game win streak before losing two games on the road to both the University of North Carolina Greensboro and Appalachian State University the past two weekends. GSU has now lost four of its last eight and has surrendered its SoCon lead to Elon University.

The Bulldogs (17-17, 6-6 SoCon) were looking good with a 15-9 record only a few weeks ago back on March 26. But in the team’s last 10 games, it has dropped eight and are now struggling to hold its head above water.

Any fans that wish to attend this weekend’s games at J.I. Clements Stadium better stay home if they are looking for a pitcher’s duel.

These two teams will undoubtedly be putting runs on the board. The Bulldogs and the Eagles are both top-five in the SoCon in runs scored. Both are top-five in on-base percentage. The Bulldogs are second in the conference in home runs this season with 30 and have six starters hitting above .300.

But stats aren’t everything. If one looked strictly at the statistics, it would not look as if GSU held the best overall record in the SoCon–which it does. The Eagles are in the bottom half of the conference in batting average and have the most strikeouts. They also have one of the highest team ERAs and have allowed the most hits. But that is why the game isn’t played on paper.

GSU will look to ride the success of its young talent on the mound while the veteran leadership will take precedent at the plate.

Sophomore Sam Howard (5-3) has struck out 52 batters this season and has provided the Eagles with a durable left-hander who can throw his off-speed pitches for strikes. He is a guy that can go seven innings a start and take some pressure off of the bullpen.

Howard’s emergence into the starting rotation as a sophomore is trumped only by what true freshman Jason Richman (4-2) has been able to do so far this year. Richman leads the team in ERA and can also go late into ball games, twice pitching into the eighth inning for the Eagles. He is a slightly harder-throwing lefty with a long, loping delivery that can easily confuse batters.

Offensively, senior infielder T.D. Davis and junior outfielder Robbie Dodds will continue to be the heart of the lineup against a team that has six pitchers with better ERAs than anyone on GSU. Davis has already hit three more home runs this season than all of last year and carries a .349 batting average. He is scattered somewhere in the top 10 on the SoCon leader board of most major offensive categories.

Dodds leads the team in batting average and is ranked third overall in the SoCon in that category, hitting .380 since coming off of the bench early in the season. He has provided the GSU lineup with another big bat to complement that of Davis.

First-pitch is set for tomorrow at 6 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.