Panthers Open Sun Belt Play with 6-5 Win Over WKU
PLEASE NOTE: Due to forecasted rain for Sunday, Georgia State and Western Kentucky will conclude their series with a doubleheader Saturday. The first game will start at 2 p.m., with the second game to follow.ATLANTA -- Kenny Anderson pitched seven strong innings and Chase Raffield hit a grand slam as Georgia State opened Sun Belt Conference play with a 6-5 victory over Western Kentucky Friday night at the GSU Baseball Complex.
Georgia State improved to 10-8, 1-0 SBC, while WKU is also 10-8 overall, 0-1 SBC.
Anderson, the junior left-hander from Loganville, Ga., allowed six hits and four runs, but just one was earned, with five strikeouts to improve to 2-1 on the season.
After Jerry Stuckey got three outs in the eighth inning, Kevin Burgee tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his third save.
"We have such respect for the Sun Belt Conference and Western Kentucky, and to win on Friday night in our first Sun Belt game is a great start for us," GSU head coach Greg Frady said. "I'm just really thankful for the way Kenny Anderson pitched tonight to give us a chance to win. we put up some runs to support him, and Kevin Burgee finished it.
"Kenny brought it from the very beginning," Frady continued. "We think Kenny is a Friday night guy, and tonight he gave us a great chance. When you pitch your team into the seventh inning, that's all you can ask from your starter."
WKU took the early lead with an unearned run in the top of the third, but Georgia State answered with Raffield's grand slam in the bottom of the inning. The Panthers loaded the bases on singles by Chad Prain and Matt Rose and a walk by Nic Wilson, and then Raffield crushed his fourth homer of the season to right center, the first grand slam for GSU since Joey Wood hit one versus Towson on April 21, 2012.
The Panthers added two more runs in the fourth on run-scoring singles by Bailey and Rose to extend their lead to 6-1.
Meanwhile, Anderson was cruising along until the sixth inning, when WKU put runners at first and second on a pair of singles, and then Regan Flaherty delivered a two-out double to score Ryan Church. It looked like Anderson would escape further damage, but the Hilltoppers scored two more unearned runs on Raffield's dropped fly ball in right.
Ben Burns relieved Anderson to start the eighth and hit the first two batters to start a WKU rally. Stuckey came on, and after a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out, a run scored on pinch hitter Hunter Wood's ground ball, but shortstop David Levy got the out at third base. Stuckey then got Anderson Miller to fly out to end the inning.
Bailey had three hits for the Panthers, while Prain, Rose and Levy added two hits each.
WKU starter Justin Hageman (0-1) took the loss, allowing six runs on nine hits over six innings.
The series concludes with a doubleheader Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m.