SoCon curtain call for the Eagles

Trevor McNaboe

For the 22nd and final time Georgia Southern University participated in the Southern Conference Tournament and came out as champions after being the fourth seed.

The weeklong double elimination tournament seemed even longer for the Eagles as a first round loss against No. 5 seed Appalachian State University by a score of 3-2 in extra innings.

Facing the brink of elimination, GSU took on top-seeded Western Carolina University where they won 8-4 after a strong performance from senior second baseman Ben Morgan going 2-4 with three runs batted in.

The Eagles would once again face off against App State, this time in an elimination game and would best the Mountaineers in a low scoring game of 2-1 thanks to a two-run homer off the bat of senior left fielder Stryker Brown in the fourth inning to advance to the semifinals.

The semifinals turned out to be grueling for the Eagles as they would end having to beat the surprise team of the tournament No. 8 seed Furman University twice in order to advance.

In the first game GSU’s offense came to life plating nine of the teams eleven runs in the first three innings of the game. However, the Paladins made the game interesting scoring six runs in the final three frames of the game to draw the score to a final of 11-8.

The second game proved to be even more interesting as for the second time in the tournament the Eagles would face extra innings after blowing a 7-4 lead in the ninth inning. GSU would rely on upperclassmen to seal the win as senior first baseman Garren Palmer, junior catcher Chase Griffin, and junior designated hitter Hunter Thomas all had RBI singles to vault GSU to a 10-7 victory in the twelfth inning.

After playing five games in four days, GSU would face its most important game of all. The Eagles faced no.3-seeded Samford University that had yet to lose in the tournament (3-0).

The Bulldogs put on the mound junior Alex Ledford who led the SoCon in wins coming in at an 11-2 record against SoCon Pitcher of the Year junior Josh Wirsu for the Eagles.

The Bulldogs came out hot scoring three runs in the first two innings, while the Eagles offense was held in check until the seventh inning when they put two on the board.

Things tightened up as Samford elected to put in their closer for a six out save in the eighth inning via junior Andres Gracia who at the time had allowed only one earned run in 30 appearances to go along with 14 saves.

To only add to their storybook finish the Eagles rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning with a single by junior right fielder Aaron Mizell and followed by a walk by senior leftfielder Strkyer Brown. A balk by Gracia advanced the pair up a base.

Samford elected to walk the junior DH Thomas to load the bases, and freshman third baseman Garrett Chapman had the biggest hit in his career to date as he singled to bring home Mizell to knot the game at three apiece.

With the game resting on his shoulders veteran catcher Chase Griffin stepped to the plate and hit an RBI single up the middle to clinch the Eagles sixth Southern Conference Championship in school history.

The Eagles will automatically advance to the NCAA Regional, due to winning the conference tournament, that is set to begin Friday May 30.