ATLANTA --After winning seven of their last nine games while displaying one of the nation's most prolific offenses, the Georgia State baseball team hosts Old Dominion in a Colonial Athletic Association weekend series at the GSU Baseball Complex. Games time are 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Live radio coverage is available on WRAS-FM 88.5 for Friday's game.
The Panthers have used their hot bats to post an 11-6 record, including 2-1 in the CAA. After winning their opening conference series from George Mason, the Panthers had a mid-week game scheduled at Kennesaw State that was cancelled. Old Dominion is 9-6, 2-1 CAA. The Monarchs opened CAA play by winning two of three from Northeastern, then dropped midweek games at East Carolina and NC State.
Georgia State LEADS THE NATION in batting average at .346 and ranks fourth nationally with 9.5 runs per game.
Sophomore third baseman Caden Bailey brings a .397 average and a 19-game hitting streak into the week, including a game-winning, walk-off home run in Sunday's series-clinching win against George Mason.
Junior shortstop Chad Prain leads the Panthers with a .435 average and 18 run batted in.
Freshman center fielder Josh Merrigan of Marietta, Ga. (Walton HS), named CAA Rookie of the Week on Feb. 18, continues to impress with a .417 batting average, 17 RBI and 22 runs scored. He leads the conference in hits (30) and runs while ranking fourth in RBI.
Senior catcher Scott Sarratt, last week's CAA Player of the Week. is batting .390.
On the mound, GSU will feature a rotation of sophomore right-hander Jerry Stuckey (1-0, 6.27) on Friday night, followed by a pair of left-handers in freshman Garrett Ford (2-2, 3.18), the reigning CAA Rookie of the Week, and junior Andrew Fessler (1-0, 0.00), who will make his first start after strong relief outings the last two Sundays.
Old Dominion counters with a rotation of right-hander Dean Ali (1-1), who leads the CAA with a 1.71 ERA, followed by lefties Ryan Yarbrough (1-1, 3.16) and Andy Roberts (1-1, 1.88). Ben Verlander, the younger brother of Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, and the current CAA Player of the Week, leads the Monarchs' offense with a .444 average and four homers.
PANTHERS ON THE OFFENSIVE: Georgia State has featured one of the nation's most productive offenses through the first month of the season, and the Panthers currently LEAD THE NATION in batting average with a .346 mark through 17 games, according to the latest NCAA statistics released Monday evening.
GSU is averaging 9.5 runs per game to rank fourth nationally, while the Panthers' on-base percentage of .446 is third in the country. Georgia State's totals of 214 hits and 161 runs also lead the nation.
Nine of the Panthers' 10 regulars are hitting .320 or higher, including two over .400 in junior shortstop Chad Prain (.435) and freshman center fielder Josh Merrigan (.417). Merrigan's total of 30 hits is third nationally, while his 22 runs place him in a tie for 10th. Prain is in the Top 50 nationally in average.
This year's GSU offense could rival the Panthers' 2010 edition that led the nation in runs scored with 10.5 per game and ranked third with a .355 batting average.
WALK-OFF FOR BAILEY PUNCTUATES HITTING STREAK: Sophomore infielder Caden Bailey's first career home run was a memorable one. With GSU and George Mason tied at 7-7, Bailey led off the bottom of the ninth inning and belted the 1-0 pitch over the left field fence for the series-clinching, walk-off victory.
Earlier in the game, Bailey delivered a two-run single to help the Panthers rally from a 6-0 deficit. That hit also extended his hitting streak to 19 games, dating back to the final three games of 2012.
The GSU record for longest hitting streak is 22 games by current volunteer coach Bradley Logan in 2008. Two Panthers had 21-game streaks in 2004 in Justin Newman and Tim Burgess.
FORD NAMED CAA ROOKIE OF THE WEEK: Georgia State's freshman pitcher Garrett Ford is this week's Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Rookie of the Week after a standout performance in defeating George Mason last Saturday in game two of the CAA series.
The rookie left-hander from Loganville, Ga., took a shutout into the ninth inning to lead the Panthers to a 12-3 victory.
Over the first eight innings, Ford allowed no runs on seven hits with two walks and one strikeout. With Georgia State leading 12-0 and the bullpen depleted after Friday's 14-13 game, he started the ninth inning and allowed three runs before giving way to the bullpen.
His final line included 8.1 innings, three runs, nine hits, three walks and one strikeout.
Ford has been GSU's Saturday starter since the season began. Last week against Boston College, he carried a shutout into the seventh inning but was the tough luck loser in a 2-0 defeat. For the season, he is 2-2 with a team-leading 3.20 ERA.
SARRATT TABBED TO BENCH AWARD WATCH LIST: Georgia State catcher Scott Sarratt was named Monday to the initial watch list for the 2013 Johnny Bench Award presented BaseballSaving.com, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced Monday.
Sarratt, a senior from Statesboro, Ga., is one of 48 catchers named to the watch for the award given annually to the top Division I collegiate catcher.
The Panthers' backstop is enjoying an outstanding season, batting .390 with one home run and 11 runs batted in while providing excellent defense and leadership for Georgia State's young pitching staff. Last week, Sarratt was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week after he batted .500 with five RBI to the week to lead the Panthers to three wins in four games against SEC and ACC foes.
THE SERIES WITH OLD DOMINION: Old Dominion holds a slim 13-11 lead over Georgia State, but the Panthers have won the season series in four of the last five years.
Last season the two teams played on the final weekend of the regular season in Norfolk, Va., and the Panthers dropped the first game, 8-1, but came back to win 8-6 and then 8-4 in 12 innings.