ATLANTA -- Winners of five in a row and 16 of their last 20 games, Georgia State hosts in-state rival Kennesaw State Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the GSU Baseball Complex in the third of three games this season between the two Atlanta-area programs.

The game will air on WRAS-FM 88.5.

The Panthers captured this year’s first two meetings, winning 12-5 on April 9 at GSU and 3-2 in 10 innings on April 16 at KSU.

Georgia State is coming off a three-game sweep of Colonial Athletic Association foe Towson, that improved the Panthers’ record to 32-17. Playing its first game since May 1, Kennesaw State is 22-25.

Georgia State continues to rank among the nation’s top five in batting average (.322, 3rd), hits (574, 2nd), runs (387, 3rd), runs per game (7.9, 5th) and doubles (121, 3rd). The Panthers are 10th nationally in slugging (.463) and 11th in on-base percentage (.408).

GSU shortstop Chad Prain, named to the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award Watch List, is enjoying one of the top offensive seasons in the nation, ranking third in the NCAA in hits (80) and seventh in batting average (.410). He also has 44 RBI and 14 stolen bases, and the GSU shortstop helps the Panthers rank in the top 15 in the nation in double plays.

Freshman center fielder Josh Merrigan, a three-time CAA Rookie of the Week and a strong candidate for Freshman All-America honors, leads all conference freshmen in batting average (.357), hits (74), runs scored (46), RBI (34), total bases (105) and stolen bases (11). Among all freshmen in the nation, Merrigan is second in hits and third in batting average and runs scored. With 74 hits, he ranks 10th nationally among all players.

Junior outfielder-designated hitter Chase Raffield leads the Panthers with nine home runs and 46 RBI, ranking third in the CAA homers and fourth in RBI.

Freshman right-hander Brantley Burton (0-0) will make his first start on the mound, becoming the fourth different rookie pitcher to get a starting nod this season. Freshman righty Jordan Hillyer (1-2) will start for Kennesaw State.

ANOTHER 30-WIN SEASON: With a 32-17 record and seven games remaining, Georgia State is putting together one of the top records in school history, including a fifth winning season in the last six seasons under head coach Greg Frady.

To put that in perspective, before Frady took over as head coach in 2007, the GSU program had posted only two winning seasons in its history - 1980 (30-25) and 2000 (31-28).

GEORGIA STATE’S 30-WIN SEASONS
Season Record Head Coach
2009 39-22 Greg Frady
2011 37-21 Greg Frady
2010 34-23-1 Greg Frady
2008 33-23 Greg Frady
2013 32-17 Greg Frady
2000 31-28 Mike Hurst
1980 30-25 Jack Humphrey

THE SERIES WITH KENNESAW STATE: Kennesaw State holds a 10-8 lead in the series with Georgia State, but the Panthers have won the first two meetings this season, 12-5 and 3-2 in 10 innings.
 
GSU 12, KSU 5 (April 9 at GSU): Nic Wilson homered and drove in four runs for the Panthers, who broke open a 6-5 game with six runs in the eighth inning. Caden Bailey added three RBI, Josh Merrigan went 4-for-5, and Chad Prain contributed three hits and two RBI. Four GSU relievers combined to limit the Owls to two runs over the final 7-2/3 innings.

GSU 3, KSU2, 10 innings (April 16 at KSU): Greg Bowder singled home the winning run in the top of the 10th inning. Georgia State tied the game in the top of the ninth when Chad Prain slid home safely, scoring from  second base on an error on the shortstop.

Last season, the two teams played a weekend series. Kennesaw State won the Friday night game at GSU, 11-5 in 10 innings, and then earned one-run victories on Saturday and Sunday at Kennesaw, 5-4 and 7-6.

The two schools played eight times from 1984-92. Then the series resumed in 2009, and since then, six of the 10 games have been decided by one run or in extra innings.
 
These three games are among the eight contests on the Panthers’ schedule against in-state rivals. Georgia State has defeated Georgia, lost at Georgia Tech, split a home-and-home with Mercer and defeated Savannah State for a 5-2 record against in-state teams.

SEVEN ROOKIE WINNERS IN 11 WEEKS: Illustrating the talent and impact of Georgia State’s freshman class, the Panthers have had the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week winner seven times in the first 11 weeks of the season, including four in a row.

Center fielder Josh Merrigan leads the way with three awards, while starting pitcher Garrett Ford has two. Matt Rose, an infielder and closer, and starting pitcher Nathan Bates have also been honored.

Merrigan, Rose and catcher Joey Roach regularly start in the field, and on the mound, Bates and Ford start on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and Rose has become the closer.

The trio of Merrigan, Rose and Roach have combined for nearly 450 at-bats, a .313 batting average, seven homers, 77 RBI and 91 runs scored.

On the mound, Ford, Bates and Rose have logged more than 135 innings, posting a 3.72 ERA, seven wins and five saves.

PRAIN NAMED TO BROOKS WALLACE AWARD WATCH LIST: Junior shortstop Chad Prain, enjoying one of the top offensive seasons in the nation, was named last week to the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award watch list. The Valdosta, Ga., native is batting .410, ranking third in the NCAA in hits (80) and in batting average. He also ranks among the national leaders with 44 RBI, despite generally batting in the leadoff or number two spot. He has three homers, 15 doubles and one triple, along with 14 stolen bases.

Prain had a hitting streak of 20 games, two shy of the school record, and he also had  a streak of reaching base in 37 straight games. He has 26 multi-hit games.

Prain’s value to the Panthers was in full evidence as he figured prominently in a pair of extra-inning victories at New Orleans (April 12-13). On Friday, he hit a solo home run, his second of the season, in the top of the 12th inning to give GSU the 4-3 victory. On Saturday, the Panthers trailed 5-4 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and were down to their last strike when Prain was hit by an 0-2 pitch with bases loaded to bring home the tying run. In the top of the 11th, he was at the plate when the go-ahead run came home on a wild pitch in the 6-5 victory.

MERRIGAN RANKS AMONG NATION’S TOP FRESHMEN:  Georgia State center fielder Josh Merrigan is a strong candidate for the CAA Rookie of the Year Award as well as Freshman All-America honors.

For the season, Merrigan is batting .357 with three homers, 34 RBI and 46 runs scored. He is 11-for-11 on stolen bases. In the last two weekend series, he has homered in one-run victories for Georgia State.

He leads all conference freshmen in batting average, hits, runs, RBI, total bases and stolen bases while ranking third overall in hits and fifth overall in runs scored.

Merrigan ranks third among all freshmen in the nation in batting average and runs scored and second in hits. His 74 hits rank 10th in the NCAA among all players.

THISCLOSE: Over the last 15 games Georgia State has played nine one-run games and five extra-inning games.

One seven-game stretch from April 12-20 featured six one-run games and four extra-inning contests as the Panthers played 72 innings in nine days.

In two of the three extra-inning wins, the Panthers were down to their last out. At New Orleans (Apr. 13), GSU trailed 5-4 in the top of the ninth and had the bases loaded with two outs when Chad Prain fell behind 0-2 but fouled off several pitches before he was hit by a pitch to bring home the tying run. At Kennesaw State (Apr. 16), Prain scored the tying run on an error with two outs in the top of the ninth.

PANTHERS WIN 16 OF LAST 20: Georgia State has won 16 of its last 20 games. Included in this stretch is an eight-game winning streak from April 5-13 that equalled the second-longest winning streak in school history. The GSU record is 11 in a row by the 2011 squad. The Panthers also won eight in a row in 2000, 2008 and 2009.

PANTHERS ON THE OFFENSIVE: Georgia State features one of the nation’s most productive offenses. GSU ranks among the nation’s top five in batting average (.322, 3rd), hits (574, 2nd), runs (387, 3rd), doubles (121, 3rd) and runs per game (7.8, 5th). The Panthers are 10th nationally in slugging (.463) and 11th in on-base percentage (.408).

Junior shortstop Chad Prain leads the way with an eye-catching .410 batting average that is seventh in the nation, followed by freshman center fielder Josh Merrigan at .357.

In 2010, Georgia State led the nation in runs scored with 10.5 per game and ranked third with a .355 batting average.

ROSE TAKES ON DUAL ROLE: After playing primarily as an infielder for the first half of the season, freshman Matt Rose now has begun to see more time on the mound, closing games for the Panthers.

The 6-3 right-hander (1-2) has five saves and a 1.21 ERA in 14 appearances.  In his last nine appearances (all since April 7), Rose has four saves and one win and has allowed just one earned run.

Rose also plays first base or third base and is batting .261 with two homers and 25 RBI.