Eagles play tough against SEC opponent

Robert George

The Georgia Southern softball team hosted SEC team Mississippi State this weekend. It was the second consecutive SEC opponent the Eagles played, following their midweek contest against South Carolina.

The Bulldogs swept the Eagles, winning the first game 6-2 and the second game 7-5 in nine innings.

Before both games, a moment of silence was held for the five nursing students who tragically passed away in a car accident last week. The names of the girls were read aloud over the intercom, as well as the names of those injured in the crash. The Eagles also wore special stickers on their helmets in honor of the girls.

“Some of our players knew those students,” head coach Annie Smith said. “Anytime we can reflect on what’s important it’s a good thing. We want to keep perspective on what we’re doing and the blessings we have.”

Game 1 (L 2-6)

Julia Echols led off the game for the Bulldogs with a home run on the first pitch to give them an early 1-0 lead. MSU added four more runs in the second, chasing starting pitcher freshman Kierra Camp after just 1.2 innings pitched. She allowed five earned runs on four hits and three walks.

Senior Marla Thompson relieved her and threw 3.1 innings of shutout ball. She worked around six hits and relied on some excellent defense to navigate the tough Bulldog lineup.

But, the offense couldn’t capitalize on the stellar pitching and defense. The Eagles got just one hit through the first five innings before finally getting on the board in the sixth when sophomore Morgan Robinson singled in freshman Alesha Mann to make the score 6-1.

The Eagles pushed across another run in the seventh to make the final score 6-2. In addition to Thompson’s performance, freshman Heather Felt pitched the final two innings and gave up just one run on two hits and a walk and two strikeouts.

“Our defense is tightening up and our pitching is settling down,” Coach Smith said. “I thought we’ve played really well over the last three games. Those are SEC teams we’re facing.”

Game 2 (L 5-7)

For the second straight game, Echols led off for the Bulldogs and hit a homerun in her first at bat. The Bulldogs added another run in the inning to make the score 2-0.

But this time, the Eagle’s leadoff hitter had a response of her own. Mann blasted a home run over the left field fence to cut the lead 2-1.

Both teams added a run in the second, making the game 3-2. The Eagles took their first lead of the series in the third, scoring three runs off consecutive throwing errors from the Bulldog infield to make the score 5-3.

However, the Eagle defense returned the favor in the top of the fourth, allowing the Bulldogs to tie the game on two unearned runs due to a costly error.

The game slowed down considerably after this, and neither team could score in the next three innings, sending the game into extras.

Both teams stranded a runner in the eighth. But in the ninth, Mackenzie Toler delivered the winning blow with a two-run home run over the right field fence. The Eagles went quietly in the bottom of the inning, making the final score 7-5.

“We had a lot of opportunities to win the game,” Coach Smith said. “I’m excited about playing Georgia State next weekend and as we head into the Sun Belt Tournament.”

The Eagles are a lock to make the tournament, and Coach Smith wants the girls to relax and just go play.

“Everybody’s record is 0-0,” Coach Smith said. “You go into that tournament and it’s anybody’s game. You just keep fighting and keep getting better and that’s all you have to do.”

The Eagles will host rival Georgia State next weekend in the final regular season series. The first game of the series will begin on Friday at 6 p.m.