After two days of rain, and multiple decisions later to change the tournament format from double elimination to single elimination, the Georgia Southern baseball team finally took on the three time defending Sun Belt Conference champions, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, in quarterfinal action.
What was already a day of upsets in Statesboro, with #1 Coastal Carolina and #2 UT-Arlington going down in the quarterfinals, the Eagles wanted to put the Cajuns on the bus back home and advance to the next round.
With Georgia Southern as the away team in this scenario, Evan Challenger started on the mound for the Eagles in front of a packed pro-Georgia Southern crowd, but quickly gave up a run in the first and a two run homer in the second, putting them down 3-0 in the early going. Challenger did not last long on the mound, and was relieved by Landon Hughes midway through the inning.
The Eagle bats had a tough task going against Louisiana’s Gunner Leger, who was named Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year this past Monday. They were able to get runners in the opening innings, but great defense by the Ragin’ Cajuns kept them off the scoreboard. It wasn’t until the top of the fourth when the Eagles scored off a solo homerun by the DH Tyler Martin to cut it to 3-1 (Martin was named Second Team All-Sun Belt, the only Eagle nominated to an All-Sun Belt team).
Later in the bottom of the sixth, Louisiana added two runs via a solo homerun and an RBI single to give the Cajuns a 5-1. Once it got closer and closer to the end, fans started to disperse from J.I. Clements stadium.
However, the Eagles were determined to not go down easily and to finish with a fight. Heading into the top of the ninth inning, Mason McWhorter gets walked to first. Followed by that, Mitchell Golden gets a pinch hit single, and then C.J. Brazil was walked to load the bases.
With no outs on the board, Evan McDonald brought home McWhorter with an RBI single to bring the score to 5-2. Following the hit, freshman Steven Curry struck out swinging at the plate to put one out on the board. Then Logan Baldwin stepped to the plate.
With the anxious crowd watching, on the 0-1 pitch, Baldwin ripped a go ahead grand slam over the right field blue monster and the Eagles took the lead 6-5.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, senior Jacob Condra Bogan stepped to the mound with the Eagles three outs away from advancing to the semifinals. However, the celebration would have to wait, as Louisiana was able to load the bases with two outs in the inning. Following that, Alex Pinero for the Cajuns hit a hard ball to Evan McDonald at shortstop, and the ball was bobbled. Louisiana tied the game, but the game winning run was tagged out at home, leading the game into extras.
In the top of the 11thinning, with runners on first and second with one out, Eagles senior Jordan Wren hits a ball to deep right center field, bringing home a run and putting the Eagles back ahead 7-6.
With the freshman duel athlete Seth Shuman now on the mound in the bottom of the inning, Shuman forced the first batter to fly out to right field, and struck out the second and third batters, giving the Eagles the victory and completing the miracle comeback.
The Eagles now advance to the second round to take on the Texas State Bobcats Saturday at 6:30pm. The Bobcats upset the defending NCAA National Champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 7-5 in quarterfinal play. The winner of the Eagles-Bobcats semifinals plays the winner of the South Alabama-Arkansas State semifinal game on Sunday in the championship.
Updated Tournament Bracket below:
First Round: Thursday May 25
#10 Georgia State 4 vs. #7 Arkansas State 21
#9 Little Rock 2 vs. #8 Texas State 3
Quarterfinals: Friday May 26
#6 Troy 1 vs. #3 South Alabama 9
#7 Arkansas State 4 vs. #2 UT-Arlington 2
#8 Texas State 7 vs. #1 Coastal Carolina 5
#5 Georgia Southern 7 vs. #4 Louisiana 6 (11 innings)
Semifinals: Saturday May 27
#3 South Alabama vs. #7 Arkansas State: 3:00pm
#8 Texas State vs. #5 Georgia Southern: 6:30pm
Finals: Sunday May 28
Semifinal Winner vs. Semifinal Winner: 1:00pm
All games are played at J.I. Clement Stadium at Georgia Southern University