Brookline, Mass. – Chad Prain and Josh Merrigan homered to back a dominating, complete-game performance by Andrew Fessler as Georgia State defeated Northeastern, 2-1, Sunday at Friedman Diamond to win the Colonial Athletic Association series.
Georgia State, which has won 13 of its last 17 games, improved to 29-17, 8-10 in the CAA, while Northeastern fell to 23-17, 8-10 CAA.
Fessler, the junior left-hander from Dallas, Ga., allowed just one unearned run on five hits—all singles--and struck out a career-high eight to improve to 4-1 on the season. He walked just two, retired the final 13 batters he faced for his second complete game of the season, and picked off two runners.
“I truly cannot say enough good about Andrew Fessler. He pitched nine innings of no earned-run baseball, and he was just awesome,” said GSU head coach Greg Frady. “He was totally dominant today, and we really needed him to be today because Northeastern had a good guy going, too. It was a classic pitching battle.”
Prain, GSU’s junior shortstop, and Merrigan, the freshman centerfielder, provided all the offense Fessler needed with solo home runs.
After the Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the second, Prain quickly tied the game in the top of the third when he belted the first pitch into the left field bullpen for this third homer of the season. GSU’s leading hitter also had a double and a single on the day.
With the score still tied at 1-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh, the left-handed hitting Merrigan smashed a 2-0 fastball for an opposite field homer to left center off Northeastern lefty Kevin Ferguson. That was the second round-tripper of the season for Merrigan.
“Chad Prain got a good pitch to hit, and he got a good swing on it,” said Frady. “I thought Chad had a great offensive day.
“Josh Merrigan always seems to be the guy right in the middle of the mix,” continued Frady. “I can’t say I would have predicted that he would hit an opposite-field home run off a left-hander, but he got a pitch, got a good swing on it, and we’ll take it.”
Northeastern managed their lone run in the second inning. Jason Vosler reached on a single when his popup behind the mound dropped between three infielders. Fessler got the next two outs, but Vosler moved to second on a groundout. On John Putress’ single to right field, Vosler advanced to third and then came home on a throwing error by right fielder Mark Hogan for an unearned run.
Northeastern loaded the bases in the fourth inning with two outs on a single, a hit by pitch and a walk, but Fessler got pinch hitter Shane Allen to fly out to center field to end the threat.
Aaron Barbosa, the Huskies’ speedy leadoff hitter, led off the fifth inning with an infield single and tried to steal second, but Fessler threw to first, and Barbosa was cut down at second base with Brad Burcoff at the plate. Burcoff then walked, but that was the last baserunner Fessler would allow.
Fessler credited his catcher, freshman Joey Roach, with calling the pickoff.
“Joey was really good behind the plate today, calling that pickoff and calling a lot of good pitches for me,” said Fessler. “I was fighting through the middle innings, but once we got that go-ahead run, that was all I needed.”
Northeastern’s Ferguson (5-3) was almost as impressive as Fessler as he also went the distance and struck out 10.
“We took a huge step forward today by winning this road series,” said Frady. ”I think our team is growing up and maturing. Whereas earlier in the season, our young guys might have been standing around, waiting to see what would happen, today people wanted the ball and wanted to be at the plate, and you could see much more of a poise and calmness about the team.”
Georgia State finally returns home after playing 11 of its last 12 games away from home. The Panthers host Towson in a CAA series this weekend at the GSU Baseball Complex, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.