ATLANTA-- Caden Bailey led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run to give Georgia State an 8-7, walk-off win over George Mason, clinching the Colonial Athletic Association series for the Panthers.
Andrew Fessler provided 4-1/3 innings in relief, allowing Georgia State (11-6, 2-1 CAA) to rally from an early 6-0 deficit. The Panthers fell behind again, 7-6, in the eighth inning before tying the game in the bottom of the eighth when Chase Raffield was hit by a pitch with bases loaded and then winning it on Bailey's first career homer. The sophomore third baseman also had a two-run single in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to 19 games.
George Mason fell to 7-7, 0-2 CAA.
"Truly, this was a grind-it-out, will-to-win game," said GSU head coach Greg Frady. "To find a way to win this game is just amazing, A walk-off to win it for your first career homer by Caden Bailey, that's incredible. When you win the series against a very good team, you have to feel good. This is conference baseball like it's supposed to be played."
Trailing 6-0 after three innings, the Panthers got back in the game with a four-run fourth inning, scoring all four runs after two were out. After Chris Triplett led off with an infield single, Mason quickly got two outs before Raffield walk and Nic Wilson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Bailey singled through the left side to score two, and then Greg Bowder and Chad Prain followed with back-to-back run-scoring singles.
The Panthers inched closer in the fifth when Wilson singled to bring home Scott Sarratt, and then GSU tied the game at 6-6 on Prain's RBI-groundout in the sixth. Meanwhile, Fessler came on in the fourth inning in relief of starter Aidan McLaughlin, and the junior left-hander allowed just two hits and one unearned run while striking out four in 4-1/3 innings.
"Andrew Fessler has been the story of the game the last two Sundays," said Frady. "Getting that kid back (from injury) has just been an incredible shot of confidence for our team."
After a scoreless seventh inning, Mason regained the lead with an unearned run in the eighth. With Duncan Satherlie at first with two outs, Blaise Fernandez hit a slow chopper to third base that he beat out for an infield hit, but Bailey's throw to first was wild, allowing Satherlie to score all the way from first.
The Panthers answered in the bottom of the inning as Josh Merrigan beat out an infield hit with one out to start the rally. Triplett managed an infield single to the left side and moved to second when shortstop Brandon Gum tried to get Merrigan going to third but the ball got away. After a groundout by Mark Hogan, Sarratt was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Mason reliever Sean Cabrera hit Raffield to bring home the tying run.
After Connor Stanley (1-0) retired the Patriots in order in the top of the ninth, including two strikeouts, Bailey led off the bottom of the ninth, and on a 1-0 pitch from Taylor Hunt (1-1), the left-handed hitter deposited the ball over the right field fence.
"I'm just so thankful to be in that situation," said Bailey. "Chase's hit by pitch with the bases loaded was huge to pick me up in the field.
"It was a 1-0 fastball," he continued "They had been working me away, away, away all day, so I knew they were going to come in on me. Fortunately he didn't get it in far enough and left it up, and I was able to get the bat on it.
"Absolutely a great weekend for our team. A couple of the games we got down, but there was such positive energy and such confidence in the dugout and that's what really helped us pull out the tight game today."
Georgia State next plays Wednesday at Kennesaw State at 5 p.m. before returning home to host Old Dominion in a CAA series next weekend.