Eagles sit in second place in the Sun Belt

Colin Ritsick

Georgia Southern won its second straight series after taking two of three games from Texas-Arlington at J.I. Clements Stadium this weekend.

The Eagles (21-16, 11-7 SBC) are tied for second place in the Sun Belt with South Alabama. Everyone is chasing the league-leading Georgia State Panthers, which has an 11-3 conference record.

The Mavericks (15-19, 6-9 SBC) are struggling to climb the ladder in the conference standings; they currently sit in eighth place ahead of UL Monroe, Arkansas State and App State.

Georgia Southern won Friday’s game 6-1 and Saturday’s game 8-1 before falling 8-3 in the finale on Sunday.

Offensive Outburst

The Eagles had an above-average weekend from the plate; they usually score five runs per game.

All nine starters recorded a hit in Friday’s game and five different guys batted at least one run in. 3B Cody Lanford was 3-4 with an RBI and a run scored; DH Kody Adams was 3-5 with a run scored; C Chase Griffin and SS Dalton Busby both had multi-hit games.

OF Hunter Thomas sent a two-run blast over the fence for his eighth home run this year. Thomas only hit one long ball all of last season. He doesn’t have an explanation for the power boost – or perhaps he’s just being modest.

“I couldn’t tell you. I think I’m just seeing balls up and trying to hit them,” Thomas said after Friday’s game.

The Eagles plated three runs in the bottom of the first inning on Saturday before tacking on five more in the second, sixth and eighth innings.

Four players recorded multi-RBI games and the team put up 12 hits on the Mavericks. It was a good ole’ fashioned beatdown.

After the game, the team celebrated by shaving their heads. Not a typical celebration, but one for a great cause. The team raised $6,517 for Vs. Cancer, a philanthropy that fights cancer and supports children’s hospitals.

The Eagles only hit safely five times on Sunday after having 27 hits across the first two games of the series. They scored three runs in the first three innings, but couldn’t get any more across after that.

Stellar Starters

Friday night starter LHP Evan Challenger and Saturday starter RHP Tripp Sheppard continue to make it easy on the bullpen.

Challenger pitched into the eighth inning on Friday and only gave up one run on five hits while striking out eighth Mavericks. Sheppard pitched into the seventh inning and gave up no earned runs on four hits. Head coach Rodney Hennon acknowledged that being able to rest the bullpen a little has been good for the team.

“It’s big, being able to save those guys. We’ve been fortunate with Challenger and Tripp. Challenger did his job setting the tone on Friday night and Tripp [on Saturday],” Hennon said.

Challenger leads the Sun Belt in ERA (1.08), opposing batting average (.175) and batters struck out looking (18).

“That’s something that is on my mind but I don’t think about. I don’t care if I give up 30 runs as long as we score 31,” Challenger said.

Sheppard’s numbers aren’t quite as prominent as Challenger’s, but he is pitching well for the Eagles. He’s got a 2.55 ERA, sixth in the Sun Belt and a 4-2 record this season.

These two starters are setting the tone for Georgia Southern’s success this season.

The Eagles play at Mercer tomorrow night before heading up to Arkansas-Little Rock for the weekend. Follow @GeorgeAnneSport for updates.