JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 16, 2003) - Georgia Southern scored five runs in the top of the ninth and held on in the bottom of the inning to defeat East Tennessee State, 12-10, in a wild matchup Friday night from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn.
With the loss, the Buccaneers (15-35, 9-19 Southern Conference) are eliminated from contention for the eighth and final spot in the Southern Conference Tournament.
For the second consecutive night, Georgia Southern (34-19, 18-10 SoCon) got on the board quickly, scoring a run in the top of the first. Catcher Brendan Gilligan led off the game with a single to right field. Gilligan moved to third following a sacrifice bunt and a fly ball, then scored on a two-out single up the middle by third baseman Carlos Love.
ETSU tied the game at one with a run in the bottom of the second. Junior center fielder Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.) hit a single to center field with one out. He then stole second and third, crossing the plate on a throwing error. The two stolen bases were the first of four for Turner on the night and seven for the Buccaneers as a team.
The Bucs widened their lead to 4-1 with three runs in the bottom of the third. Junior shortstop Andy Howdeshell (Maryville, Tenn.) led off the inning with a double, then advanced to second on a balk. Another double, this time by freshman third baseman Shane Byrne (Johnson City, Tenn.) brought Howdeshell home. Freshman right fielder Jordan Abromovitz (South Park, Pa.) then laced a single to right center, driving in Byrne. Abromovitz took second on a wild pitch and to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman left fielder Beau Alford (Johnson City, Tenn.) before scoring on a single by freshman first baseman Steven Calicutt (Spartanburg, S.C.).
The Eagles responded with three runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game. Right fielder Brent Stephens hit a solo homer to right with one down in the inning. Shortstop Rocky Baker then doubled to left field and second baseman Brandon Burnsed was hit by a pitch. Center fielder James Payne singled up the middle to score Stephens. Burnsed scored the final run of the inning on a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by Gilligan.
The Bucs stormed right back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 7-4 advantage. ETSU loaded the bases with no outs as Turner led off the inning with a bunt single, Calicutt walked and sophomore catcher Caleb Moore (Knoxville, Tenn.) reached on an error. Sophomore second baseman Justin Clear (LaFollette, Tenn.) then brought home Turner and Calicutt with a single to left field. Byrne then picked up his second RBI of the game, scoring Moore with a single to right field.
Georgia Southern tied the game at seven, scoring two runs in the top of the sixth and one in the top of the seventh. After Payne and Gilligan led off the sixth with consecutive singles, left fielder Brandon Long hit into a fielder's choice, scoring Payne from third. Designated hitter Grant Burress then came to the plate and hit a double to right center to bring Long home.
With one out in the seventh, Burnsed walked, advanced to second on an infield single and went to third on a ground out. He would dash home from third to score on a wild pitch.
The Bucs took the lead right back, striking for two more runs in the bottom of the seventh. Clear led off the frame with a walk followed by a single to left by Howdeshell. The two runners moved up to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by Byrne. Howdeshell moved to third on a wild pitch, while Clear was thrown out at the plate. After a walk by Abromovitz, freshman designated hitter Blake Church (Roswell, Ga.) hit a double down the left field line to bring home both baserunners.
Georgia Southern had one more comeback left, scoring five runs in the top of the ninth to take a 12-9 advantage. The Eagles loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. Long then forced a run in with a walk of his own, followed by a Burress double that scored Gilligan and Payne. Love would single to left with Long scoring on the hit and Burress scoring on an error.
East Tennessee State mounted a comeback of their own in the ninth, but could score only one run against GSU closer Steve Cogswell. Howdeshell led off the inning with a single to right, followed by a double to right center by Abromovitz. With two outs, Howdeshell scored on a wild pitch, but Cogswell would record the final out on a strikeout with the tying run at the plate.
Cogswell earned the win, pitching the final 1.2 innings and allowing one run on two hits and striking out four. ETSU freshman righty Jeremy Hall (Gray, Tenn.) was charged with the loss (0-5) after pitching 1.1 innings and allowing four runs on two hits, striking out two and walking three.
There were several great individual performances in tonight's game, but none was better that Howdeshell's, as he went 5-for-6 with three runs scored. Calicutt had three hits on the night, while Byrne, Abromovitz, Turner and Clear each registered two.
Georgia Southern was led by Payne, who went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Baker and Burress added three hits each while Gilligan and Love both had two.
East Tennessee State and Georgia Southern will meet tomorrow at 2 p.m. from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn. for the final game of the regular season.