DECATUR, Ga. – Jacksonville University baseball battled through a double-header, splitting the two contests with Georgia State on Saturday at GSU Baseball Complex to take one in the weekend series.
"We knew we had to fight every pitch," said Head Coach Chris Hayes. "Give Georgia State a lot of credit. They played exceptionally well this weekend and we did not. But we did compete, and it was a huge win for us."
Getting on the board first in game two, Jacksonville strung together consecutive singles from Ruben Someillan and Sam Armstrong, setting the table for Chris Gau to drive in Someillan two batters later with two-outs.
The next inning, JU added a two-spot. Connor Stephens led off with a walk, stole second base, and came home when Franco Guardascione clubbed a double off the wall in left center. Chris Lehane bunted him over to third before Someillan reached on an error to the right side of the diamond, driving in Guardascione.
Mike Cassala started and mowed down the Panther hitters for his first five innings of work. In the sixth, GSU scored its first run when a one-out error led to a run scoring double. Three batters later, Georgia State got within one on an RBI single, but Cassala recorded his career-high eighth strikeout of the night to strand two.
That would end Cassala's outing, and GSU would strike again off of Austin Temple in the seventh after a two-out walk came around to score on a triple to right, tying the game at three.
Lehane came up with one out in the ninth, and battled at the plate, seeing eight pitches, fouling off three, including one off of his toe, before getting hit by a pitch. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, smartly advanced to third on a ground out to third, waiting to advance until the throw. After Armstrong was intentionally walked and GSU made its third pitching change of the inning, Angel Camacho hit a blooper up the middle that caromed off the bag at second into shallow left, scoring Lehane and putting JU back out in front for good. Scott Dubrule shot a single into left to score Armstrong from second, and the Dolphins took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
"Guys stayed in the moment and really competed in every at-bat," said Hayes. "A credit to all of them for sticking together and fighting through the adversity that was presented this weekend.
Chris Mauloni entered the game in the seventh with runners at the corners, and seemed most comfortable with two men on all night. He struck out the lone batter he faced to end the seventh, walked two men in the eighth, yet recording every out himself to preserve the tie, before allow the tying run to reach base in the ninth. A bizarre play in which GSU's Nick Gatewood hit a long fly ball off the wall in center turned into the second out of the inning when defensive replacement Cory Garrastazu whipped it back into the infield and the both Jordan Jones, who had tagged up thinking the ball had been caught, and Gatewood were tagged at second. Since first was unoccupied, Gatewood was ruled out. Two batters later, Mauloni fanned his fourth Panther of the night, and picked up his first win.
"It was a total team win," said Hayes. "A lot of guys contributed and Mauloni was absolutely phenomenal."
JU dropped game one of the double-header 7-0. The Dolphins mustered just three hits, and Tyler Santana was tagged with his first loss of the season after a difficult five innings in which he gave up four runs, three earned, and had three walks and four wild pitches.
"We haven't played our best baseball," said Hayes. "We can't feel good about what we accomplished this weekend, but we can feel good about our growth and how we continue to improve."
Jacksonville returns home on Tuesday to host Florida State at John Sessions Stadium. First pitch is at 5 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at JUTickets.com.