Eagles shutout Bethune-Cookman on Opening Day

Colin Ritsick

Redshirt sophomore LHP Evan Challenger took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning before giving up two hits in 5.2 innings pitched en route to a 3-0 Georgia Southern victory over Bethune-Cookman Friday night.

Opening Day’s first pitch was moved from 6 p.m. to 4 p.m. to avoid the late-night cold weather, and both teams did a good job of letting the fans go home early and get out of the cold. The game took exactly two hours to play which – for those of you who’ve never been to a baseball game – is fast.

Challenger commanded the game from the first pitch, and the Wildcats rarely were in scoring position.

Head coach Rodney Hennon said his starter did a good job of throwing strikes early in the count and getting the leadoff hitters out.

Challenger said he just started throwing a slider about a week ago (cue Schmoney Dance), and it was his most effective pitch tonight.

“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.”

This was Challenger’s first appearance since May 25, 2013. He tore the UCL in his elbow during his freshman season, which is the injury that requires Tommy John surgery to repair. He got surgery during the summer and was out all of last season.

Challenger knows he has a good offense behind him and said that makes it easier to pitch.

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead, scoring two runs in the second inning. First baseman Ryan Cleveland scored on a RBI single from shortstop Dalton Busby.  A RBI double off the bat of freshman third baseman Will Hudgins made it a 2-0 ballgame. Cleveland was 0-3 but hit two balls to the warning track. Catcher Chase Griffin went 2-4.

Left fielder Hunter Thomas hit a solo home run over the right field wall in the fifth inning, extending the Eagles lead to 3-0. Thomas only hit one home run the entire 2014 season. He was 1-3 on the night with a RBI and a run.

LHP Jason Richman relieved Challenger in the fifth inning and struck out four of the six batters he faced. RHP Tripp Sheppard held the Wildcats in the eighth inning and the closer, RHP Chris Brown, struck out two of three in the ninth to end the game.