JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 17, 2003) - The potent Georgia Southern offense put 20 runs on the scoreboard in the first three innings of play Saturday afternoon against East Tennessee State, and went on to a 22-3 victory in the regular season finale for both teams from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn.
With the win, the Eagles raise their record to 35-19, 19-10 in Southern Conference games. GSU will next play in the Southern Conference Tournament, May 21-24 from Riley Park in Charleston, S.C. The Buccaneers conclude their season at 15-36, 9-20 in SoCon play.
The Eagles took an early lead, scoring two runs in the top of the first. Left fielder Brendan Gilligan continued his strong play in the series with a leadoff single to center field, then stole second. Center fielder Brandon Long then singled to left field to move Gilligan to third. After Long stole second to put two runners in scoring position, both came home on consecutive ground outs.
East Tennessee State scored three runs to take a 3-2 advantage in the bottom of the first. Junior shortstop Andy Howdeshell (Maryville, Tenn.) walked to lead off the frame, then stole second. Freshman third baseman Shane Byrne (Johnson City, Tenn.) followed with a walk before both runners were brought home on a double by freshman outfielder Jordan Abromovitz (South Park, Pa.). With one out, freshman catcher Blake Church (Roswell, Ga.) was hit by a pitch, then moved to second as Abromovitz was gunned down trying to steal third. Church would cross the plate on a two-out single to left by junior center fielder Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.).
Following ETSU's three-run rally to take the lead, Georgia Southern took control of the game, scoring 20 unanswered runs. After a rocky start in the first, Eagle righty John Carroll was dominant, allowing a leadoff single to Buccaneer sophomore second baseman Justin Clear (LaFollette, Tenn.) in the second, but then retiring the next 20 batters in order before he left the game after the eighth. He struck out a career-high 13 batters on the day.
GSU loaded the bases on two singles and walk to begin the top of the second. Second baseman James Payne followed with another walk to force in shortstop Rocky Baker from third. The bases were then cleared on a single by Gilligan and a subsequent fielding error. Designated hitter Grant Burress drove in the final run of the inning, lacing a double to right field to score Gilligan.
The Eagles put the game out of reach in the top of the third, sending 16 men to the plate and scoring 13 runs. Baker led off the inning with a home run to left center, his fourth of the season. Right fielder Brent Stephens then hit a triple and scored on a double by catcher A.J. Zickgraf. Payne reached on an error, scoring Zickgraf, then stole second. He would come home on a single by Gilligan. After a walk to Long, Burress doubled to left center, scoring Gilligan. Third baseman Carlos Love hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Long, but Burress was thrown out on the play trying to advance to third.
Eagle first baseman Greg Dowling and Baker hit consecutive singles with two down, then both scored on a single by Stephens and a fielding error. After a walk to Zickgraf, Payne doubled down the right field line, scoring Stevens. Gilligan followed with his fourth hit in the first three innings, a two-run single, scoring Payne and Zickgraf. Long capped the scoring with a two-run homer to right field.
After the third, the game moved quickly, with only two more runs being scored in the final six innings. Georgia Southern scored the last two runs of the game in the top of the seventh on a single by designated hitter Matt Hammond that scored second baseman Brandon Burnsed and left fielder Mike Economos.
Carroll (6-2) allowed three runs on four hits while walking four in his eight innings of work. ETSU senior Willie McKenzie (Kingsport, Tenn.) was charged with the loss (1-4), allowing seven runs on six hits in two innings of work.
Abromomvitz, Turner, Clear, junior left fielder Bo Calloway (Knoxville, Tenn.) and freshman catcher Justin Benard (Erwin, Tenn.) had hits on the afternoon for ETSU. Abromovitz drove in two of ETSU's three runs on the afternoon.
Georgia Southern was led by Gilligan, who went 4-for-5 with four RBI and four runs scored. Long, Baker, Stephens, Zickgraf and Payne each scored three runs while Burress drove in three runs.