JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 15, 2003) - Georgia Southern scored four runs in the top of the first inning against East Tennessee State, and cruised to a 14-4 victory in the opener of the final Southern Conference series of the regular season Thursday night from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn.
The Eagles (33-19, 17-10 Southern Conference) wasted little time getting runners in scoring position in the first, as leadoff man Brendan Gilligan hit an infield single, then advanced to second on a walk by the second batter, right fielder Brandon Long. With one out in the inning, Gilligan would come home on a single by third baseman Carlos Love. Long then crossed the plate on a groundout to short by first baseman Greg Dowling. After shortstop Rocky Baker hit another infield single and stole second, both Baker and Love came home on an error.
With the Eagles leading 4-0 with two outs in the first, a heavy downpour began, causing a 52-minute rain delay. After play resumed, ETSU (15-34, 9-18 SoCon) junior starter Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.) got the final out of the inning on a fielder's choice.
Georgia Southern starter Dennis Dove worked out of a jam in the bottom of the first, leaving the bases loaded. That was a common theme on the evening, with Dove getting out of numerous tough spots, stranding multiple ETSU runners in four of his seven innings on the mound.
East Tennessee State got on the board in the bottom of the third as freshman designated hitter Blake Church (Roswell, Ga.) hit a towering solo home run to left center with two outs.
The Eagles widened their lead to 6-1, scoring two runs in the top of the fifth. Long led off the frame with a walk, then stole second. Designated hitter Grant Burress scored Long with a single, then he would steal second base. He moved to third on a ground out, and came home on a wild pitch.
ETSU tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with one out. But Dove came up big again, striking out the final two batters of the inning to not allow any runs.
Scoring six runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Georgia Southern put the game out of reach. Gilligan had the big hit of the inning, driving in the final two runs of the inning with a single up the middle. Love, catcher A.J. Zickgraf and center fielder James Payne also had run-scoring base hits in the frame.
Georgia Southern scored their final two runs in the top of the ninth to make the score 14-2 in favor of the Eagles. With two outs, pinch hitter Matt Hammond doubled to score Zickgraf from first. Another pinch hitter, Trey Hunter later followed with a double to score Hammond.
Consecutive walks with two outs in the ninth by senior first baseman Chad Boruff (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Church began a final ETSU rally. Following a single by freshman center fielder Steven Calicutt (Spartanburg, S.C.) loaded the bases, freshman catcher Justin Benard (Erwin, Tenn.) lined a single to right to score Boruff and Church.
Dove (7-2) earned the win, pitching seven inning and allowing one run on six hits while striking out nine. Turner (2-7) was charged with the loss, going 6.2 innings allowing five earned runs on ten hits and also striking out nine.
ETSU was led at the plate by sophomore second baseman Justin Clear (LaFollette, Tenn.), who went 2-for-3 on the evening. Church led the Bucs with two runs scored while Benard tied for the game-high with two RBI.
Gilligan paced the Eagles from the top of the order, going 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored. Love, Dowling and Baker each had two hits while five GSU players scored two runs on the evening.
The Bucs and Eagles meet tomorrow night at 7 p.m. from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn. for the second game of the three-game set.