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Courtesy: Christopher Justice/Images by Justice
Andrew Fessler struck out a career-high eight in his final game.

Seniors Go Out with 5-4 Win at WKU

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Bowling Green, Ky. -- Georgia State sent its 10 seniors out with a victory as the Panthers scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to earn a 5-4 win at Western Kentucky in the season finale Saturday at Nick Denes Field. Senior Chad Prain delivered the game-winning hit, senior pitcher Andrew Fessler turned in his best start of the season, and senior Ben Burns earned his 11th career victory.

Georgia State was eliminated Friday from contention for one of the eight spots in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, so the Panthers finish their season at 25-31, 11-19 in the Sun Belt.

The game was tied at 2-2 when senior Jody Stone drew a walk to lead off the ninth inning. With one out, Joey Roach slashed a pinch hit single through the right side, and Ryan Blanton, who ran for Stone, advanced to third, allowing Roach to take second on the throw. After Trae Sweeting walked to load the bases, Prain laced a bases-loaded, three-run double to right field to put the Panthers ahead 5-2.

Western Kentucky (29-26, 15-15) managed two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but junior closer Kevin Burgee got the final two outs for his eighth save.

"It says so much about the team for them to get off the bus today, knowing that we were eliminated in a heart-breaking game last night but still play as profesionally and as hard as we did today," GSU head coach Greg Frady said. "That is something I'm very proud of, and it says a tremendous amount about our organization."

All 10 GSU seniors played in the game.

Fessler, the senior left-hander from Dallas, Ga., did not figure in the decision but he tied his career high with eight strikeouts as he pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just two runs on four hits.

Senior righty Aidan McLaughlin pitched 1.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Burns, another lefty, got the final out of the eighth inning to earn the win, his fifth of the season. He finishes his career with an 11-4 mark, tops among active Panthers.

Prain finished with four RBI in his final game as he drove in the Panthers' first run with a third-inning groundout that brought home Sweeting, who tripled. Senior Chris Triplett followed with a single and scored on Chase Raffield's, the 59th RBI of the season for the senior right-fielder.

Raffield finished his career with a .368 career batting average, the second-best figure in Georgia State history. He (24 homers) and Nic Wilson (26) combined for 50 homers over their two seasons.

"These 10 seniors have been so meaningful to our organization," Frady said. "They have provided us with leadership, stability, performance ... we just leaned on them for so much. In that group, we have All-Americans, all-conference players, National Players of the Week, and we've had tremendous academic success stories. The group led us to 60 wins in two years.

"It's hard to see them leave," Frady continued. "But they did help us forge a new path in the Sun Belt. It's a path that we didn't know much about as we went through it this year. I think we found out that we are doing some things that can work and there are some things we have to adjust to. Every game in the Sun Belt is valuable; even today's win is valuable as we try to muster momentum going forward."

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