GREENVILLE, S.C. — Riding a seven-game losing streak into the Southern Conference baseball tournament, Justin Hess and the Georgia Southern Eagles decided enough was enough.
The losing streak, which included a three-game sweep against Charleston to cap the regular season, ended against those same Cougars with a 2-0 GSU win Thursday morning in a game that was rained out Wednesday night at Fluor Field.
Hess pitched the game of his career.
The senior matched his season-high with 10 strikeouts and hurled his first-ever complete game, tossing 141 pitches and capping off the masterpiece by striking out Ben Boy-kin, Charleston’s designated hitter, who watched a curve ball go by for strike three.
Despite the high pitch count, Hess wasn’t about to leave the ballgame.
“He wanted to finish,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “We had some discussion there in the dugout, and he might have knocked me out if I’d have tried to take him out. He wanted to finish that game awful bad.”
“I would have been rather unhappy if coach Hennon had taken me out,” Hess added.
The seventh-seeded Eagles (26-30) got all the offense they needed in the first inning, with one swing of the bat. First baseman T.D. Davis, batting in the three hole for the first time this season, crushed a two-run homer over Fluor Field’s green monster. The bomb ran into a third-story window on the building behind the stadium, which is a replica of Boston’s Fenway Park.
There was a bit of an argument as to who was the hero of the game.
“All the credit to Hess right there for that one,” Davis said.
“It helps when a guy hits one off of a building out there,” Hess added.
“Typically, in order to make a run, your seniors are the guys that step up, and those two guys certainly did that today,” Hennon said about Hess and Davis. “I’m proud of our whole team.”
Davis narrowly missed another home run in the third inning, settling for a double on a ball he hit a foot shy of clearing the fence in left-center.
Second-seeded Charleston threatened only twice. The Cougars (31-25) got runners on second and third in the first with one out, but Hess fanned back-to-back hitters to get out of the inning unscathed. GSU’s lone defensive miscue, a throwing error by third baseman Brent Pugh in the seventh, allowed runners to reach second and third again, but Ryan Welke flied out to centerfield to end the inning.
The win puts GSU in the winners bracket.
“It’s always good to get the first one,” Hennon said.