CHARLESTON, S.C. – RBI singles from Garren Palmer, Hunter Thomas and Chase Griffin in the top of the 12th inning lifted No. 4 seed Georgia Southern to a 10-7 win over No. 8 seed Furman as the Eagles beat the Paladins for the second time Saturday to reach the title game of the Southern Conference Baseball Championship at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.
The Eagles will face No. 3 seed Samford at 2 p.m. Sunday for the SoCon crown. The championship game will air on ESPN3.
Coming through the losers’ bracket after a first-round loss to Appalachian State on Wednesday, GSU (38-21) had to beat Furman (26-33) twice Saturday to advance, and did just that. The Eagles claimed an 11-8 win over the Paladins to open semifinal play, forcing a second game between the two squads.
Furman didn’t make it easy on the Eagles in their second contest of the day, rallying from a six-run deficit late in regulation to force extras, but GSU survived several Paladin scoring chances in extras and surged back ahead with three runs in the 12th.
Kody Adams got things going with a leadoff double to left-center and went to third on a sacrifice bunt. Anthony Mizell – who had a home run and a triple to that point – was intentionally walked to put runners on the corners, and after Furman pitcher Alex Abrams went to a 3-0 count on Stryker Brown, he, too, earned the intentional pass to load the bases.
Palmer then jumped on the first pitch he saw, sending a flare into left-center to bring in the go-ahead run. Thomas followed suit, singling to left-center on the first pitch he saw, as well, making it a 9-7 game. After Abrams got a three-pitch strikeout, Griffin singled through the right side to plate Brown. Furman right fielder Jake Jones threw out Palmer at the plate on the play to send the game to the bottom half of the 12th.
Down to their last three outs and trailing by three runs for the second time on the night, Furman threatened to rally again.
Kyle Simmons led off with a single up the middle and Hunter Burton fouled off eight pitches in his at-bat before being plunked to put runners on first and second with no one out. A fielder’s choice erased Burton at second and put runners on the corners, but GSU reliever Tripp Sheppard got a pair of fly outs to end the game.
None of that would have been necessary without the Paladins’ late-game surge. After Chris Ohmstede, Abrams and Jones hit RBI singles to tie the contest at 7 with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, GSU reliever Eric Alonzo got Cameron Whitehead to roll into a 4-6-3 double play to keep the Eagles alive.
The Eagles jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings in the elimination semifinal, getting RBI singles from Garrett Chapman and Dalton Busby in a three-run second and a solo home run from Mizell in the third.
Georgia Southern stretched its lead to 7-1 with runs in the sixth and seventh innings, getting another RBI single from Busby in the sixth and an RBI triple from Mizell and a run-scoring double from Brown in the seventh.
Furman refused to go away, however, plating three runs in the bottom of the seventh to make a game of it. A trio of singles loaded the bases with one out, and Burton drew a seven-pitch walk to drive in Jordan Simpson. Freshman Carter Grote followed with a two-run double down the left-field line to make it 7-4, and Harrison was hit by pitch to reload the bases. Reliever Matt McCall wriggled off the hook, getting a double play off the bat of Ohmstede to end the inning.
GSU’s 12th-inning outburst made a winner of Sheppard, who pitched three innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits.
Jason Richman earned the start for the Eagles, going 4 1/3 innings and allowing one run on two hits. The appearance was his fifth of the tournament, matching the SoCon tournament record, and his NCAA Division-I leading 44th of the season.
Abrams (8-3) took the loss, allowing three runs on five hits in five innings of work. He walked two and struck out six. Abrams faced the minimum through his first four innings before running into trouble in the 12th.
The Eagles and Samford (35-24) will square off for the SoCon title for the third time in four seasons. GSU won the battle in Charleston in 2011, while Samford claimed the rematch in Greenville, S.C., in 2012. Georgia Southern will be making its 11th appearance in the title game and is seeking its sixth title. Samford, which joined the league in 2008, will be making its third appearance and is trying for its second crown.