Opening Weekend: Eagles sweep Bethune-Cookman

Colin Ritsick

Georgia Southern baseball swept Bethune-Cookman in the first three games of the 2015 season this weekend. The Eagles (3-0) pitched a two-hit shutout on Friday, scored 12 runs on Saturday and gave up a seven-run lead before winning the game on Sunday.

“All three games were a little bit different. Probably from a pitching standpoint and defense, I thought Friday was our most complete game,” head coach Rodney Hennon said.

Coming into the weekend, Hennon said that these games were an important time to learn about his team. There were holes to be filled on the mound and in the infield, and a lot of new players to evaluate.

Offensively, the majority of the lineup contributed in all three games. Seven of nine starters had a hit in Saturday’s game, and seven of nine starters had a RBI in Sunday’s game. Defensively, Hennon wasn’t thrilled. The Eagles committed six errors in three games and there were a few other plays that were recorded as hits, but could have gone either way.

Pitching was the biggest question mark coming into the season. And it still is. But the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, threw well all weekend and gave the Eagles a chance to win every ballgame. Hennon said he was pleased with how his team pitched this weekend.

Game 1 – GSU 3, BC 0

LHP Evan Challenger made his first start since May of 2013 on Friday night, and he did not disappoint. The redshirt sophomore took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He struck out six batters, walked none and didn’t allow a run en route to his first win on the year. He gave up two hits in the fifth before getting pulled after 5.1 innings.

“I had a lot of nerves going, so it was good to get the first batter out and keep going from there,” Challenger said. “[I] located the fastball well, and the changeup has always been my pitch.”

LHP Jason Richman, RHP Tripp Sheppard and RHP Chris Brown didn’t allow a hit over the next 3.2 innings of relief pitching. Brown got his first save in an Eagle uniform. OF Hunter Thomas hit a solo home run in the third inning, and catcher Chase Griffin was 2-4 from the plate.

Game 2 – GSU 12, BC 8

SS Dalton Busby didn’t have a single hit, yet batted in three runs on two sacrifice flies and a fielder’s choice. OF Kody Adams was 2-3 with two runs, two walks and an RBI. Griffin was 2-5 with two runs and an RBI. 1B Ryan Cleveland was 1-2 with three runs, two walks and an RBI.

The Eagles went deep into their bullpen on Saturday using eight different guys to pitch nine innings. LHP Anthony Peasano pitched 2.0 innings and struck out three to earn his first save at GSU.

Game 3 – GSU 9, BC 8

The Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the second inning only to watch it disappear by the eighth inning. In the bottom of the eighth with the score tied 8-8, 3B Will Hudgins’ sacrifice fly to right field allowed OF Aaron Mizell to tag up and score from third. Not a lot of coaches would have sent the runner with a ball as shallow as this one, but assistant coach Chris Moore ran the risk.

The Wildcats (0-3) outfield hadn’t gunned anyone out all weekend and had noticeably weak arms. Moore decided to send Mizell, and the Eagles won because of it.

Adams, Griffin and Hudgins all recorded multi-hit games. RHP Connor Simmons made his first NCAA start and scattered two hits across four innings. He struck out three and walked two.

Hennon said, “I thought he handled himself real well. At the end of the second inning when he got himself into a little trouble he made some big pitches, got a big strikeout with a man on third with less than two outs.”