What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State opened the 2017 season with an 8-3 win over Marshall in the Atlanta Challenge.
* Cam Sperry went 4-for-4 and Ryan Blanton homered and drove in two.
* Starting pitcher Bryce Conley allowed one unearned run and struck out nine in 5.1 innings.


ATLANTA -- Ryan Blanton led off the game with a home run and Cam Sperry went 4-for-4 as Georgia State opened the 2017 season with an 8-3 win over Marshall in the Atlanta Challenge Friday at the GSU Baseball Complex.

Starting pitcher Bryce Conley (1-0), the senior right-hander, allowed one unearned run on two hits in 5.1 innings and tied his career-high with nine strikeouts to earn the victory. Righty Tanner Thomson, a junior making his GSU debut, followed with 2.2 hitless, scoreless innings.

Shortstop Justin Jones had three hits and two RBI, and third baseman Romero Greer, another newcomer, added two hits and two RBI.

After Marshall (0-1) pushed across an unearned run in the top of the first, the Panthers answered immediately as Blanton hit the 2-0 pitch from starter Wade Martin (0-1) over the fence in right centerfield for his fifth career leadoff homer.

"That's what seniors are supposed to do on Friday nights," head coach Greg Frady said, referring to Sperry, Blanton and Conley. "How amazing and electric was it that Ryan Blanton led off the game and the season with a home run. I really felt like we had the momentum after he swung the bat, and we maintained that momentum throughout the game."

Georgia State (1-0) extended its lead to 2-1 on Jones' RBI single in the second, and then the Panthers added two more on an error by the shortstop to lead 4-1 after three.

Meanwhile, Conley settled into a groover, retiring 13 of 15 batters until the sixth inning. After a one-out walk and then a hit batter, he gave way to Thomson, who promptly rolled an inning-ending double play.

"When Tanner came in and induced the double play, that was the momentum-killer for them," Frady said. "Every team makes a run, and that's a good offensive team."

Thomson struck out four in the next two innings as he and Conley combined for 13 punch-outs. The Panthers out-hit Marshall 13-3.

Georgia State broke the game open with four runs in the eighth on RBI singles by Blanton and Jones and then Greer's two-run single.

Sperry, a fifth-year senior who missed the 2016 season with a knee injury, reach base five straight times in the game on four singles and then an intentional walk.

"We rely on Cam for strength and toughness, and he is a team leader," Frady said.

The Atlanta Challenge continues Saturday as GSU hosts Western Michigan at 2 p.m.