By: Drake Browne
The Eagles of Georgia Southern continued their hot streak, beating the third seeded Phoenix and earning another trip to the Southern Conference championship game. This will be their third trip to the championship game in the past four seasons.
Georgia Southern catcher Chase Griffin, the conference Freshman of the Year, went 3-4 at the plate with three RBIs, to help the Eagles jump out to an early 8-1 lead.
Griffin said, “We’ve struggled with our bats throughout the season. The hitters are finally finding themselves and finding their identity. Every hitter is taking their role and doing it well right now.”
Elon responded in the bottom of the seventh, scoring six runs off five hits and two Eagles errors. However, that was all the Phoenix could muster for the rest of the game, as Georgia Southern closer Kyle Rowe earned his sixth save of the year, pitching 2.2 perfect innings to finish off the game.
Georgia Southern starter Will Middour earned the win by throwing six innings and allowing only two runs.
The Eagles are expected to start their ace, Chris Beck, in Sunday’s championship game. Beck leads the SoCon in strikeouts, and he was the winning pitcher of the 2011 championship game.
Game 2: #4 Samford 12, #8 Furman 2
The Furman Paladins’ upset streak ended on Saturday, when they met up with the hot hitting Samford Bulldogs. Samford jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, and never looked back as they move on to set up a championship game rematch with Georgia Southern.
After a four run second inning, Samford’s Phillip Ervin belted a grand slam in the bottom of the fourth to propel a five run inning, and put the game out of reach.
Samford Head Coach Casey Dunn said, “They are a scary offensive club. It was big to take it from a five-run game to a nine-run game.”
Samford belted out 13 hits, which is actually the lowest amount that they have collected in a single game all tournament. Brandon Miller, who is the nation’s leading home run hitter, leads the Bulldogs’ powerful offense.
Kyle Putkonen earned his first complete game of the season, allowing two runs and eight hits. He stranded 11 Paladin base runners throughout his nine innings of work.
The Paladins advanced to the semi final round for the third time since 2008, but they did not have enough to complete another upset.
Furman Head Coach Ron Smith said, “We have some seniors who had fine careers. They always represented our program and Furman University in a very positive manner. We’re proud of them.”
In last year’s title game, Georgia Southern defeated Samford 1-0. Chris Beck was brilliant for the Eagles, and he is expected to be on the mound again for Georgia Southern. Samford’s offense is much improved from last season, so it should be an exciting matchup.
Dunn said, “It’s nice to be back. Last year was one heck of a game. It was a 1-0 thriller. It couldn’t have been a better game to watch. Tomorrow is going to be a good one. It’s going be a great game to watch. Hopefully we will end up one run better this time.”