After a miracle comeback victory over Louisiana on Friday, and an 11-5 victory over Texas State on Saturday, the Georgia Southern Eagles seemed confident heading into the Sun Belt Conference championship game Sunday against the South Alabama Jaguars.
Freshman Seth Shuman, who got the win in Friday’s game, started on the mound on Sunday afternoon as the Eagles were the away team again, but had home field advantage in front of a pro-Southern crowd at J.I. Clements Stadium.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third inning. With runners on second and third, a sac fly RBI brought home a run for the Jaguars, striking first.
The Eagles had multiple innings with runners in scoring position, but they couldn’t bring them home to score. South Alabama would also score a run in the fourth and fifth inning, increasing the lead to 3-0.
In the top of the sixth, the Eagle offense started to click. Freshman Steven Curry hit a two-RBI single that brought home teammates CJ Brazil and Mitchell Golden to cut the lead to one. South Alabama did answer back on one of the runs scored by the Eagles in the bottom of the inning with a solo homerun to put the game at 4-2.
In the top of the eighth, Georgia Southern had another opportunity to cut the lead down. With runners on the corners, Evan McDonald hit into a 4-6-3 double play, however the runner from third came home to score in the process, cutting the lead to one again.
Senior pitcher Evan Challenger was able to go three up and three down in the bottom half of the inning to give Georgia Southern one more chance.
Starting in the top of the ninth, Logan Baldwin led off with a base hit, then Tyler Martin was walked, moving Baldwin into scoring position and bringing up Ryan Cleveland to bat.
Working into a 3-2 count, on the next pitch, Cleveland belted a 3-run homerun out to right center, giving the Eagles a 6-4 lead and were a half inning away from being Sun Belt Conference champions.
However, South Alabama had other plans.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Jaguars hit back-to-back solo homeruns off Evan Challenger to tie at 6, sending the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth, with runners on second and third, Jaguars Brendan Donovan hit a ball into left field that dropped, bringing the runner from third home to score, and South Alabama won the game, and the Sun Belt Conference championship 7-6.
The Eagles finished the 2017 season with a 38-21 record.