PANTHERSVILLE, Ga. – Riding a strong offense and solid pitching, the Georgia State baseball team opened its season with a 12-4 win over Jackson State Friday at The Field at Panthersville.
Georgia State (1-0) jumped on the board early, scoring six runs in the bottom of the first. With runners on the corners and Matt Van Horn at the plate, Nick Hogan scored on a pass ball to give State a 1-0 lead. Van Horn lined a double into left centerfield, bringing in Jean-Michel Rochon-Salvas. Following a wild pitch, Bradley Logan plated Van Horn with a sacrifice fly to right that gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead. Derek Simmons had an RBI double, Theo Asher had an RBI groundout and Dusty Bennett capped the scoring with a single to center field.
The Panthers poured it on some more in the second, as Chase Childers drove in a run on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded. Asher sliced a double down the right field line to score Childers and Marc Mimeault, giving State a commanding 9-0 lead.
Panther starter Robinson Polanco (1-0) showed good command of his pitching repertoire, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Polanco, a native of the Dominican Republic, lost his no-hit bid on a double down the left field line to Jamaal Thelwell. The crafty lefty buckled down and kept the shutout intact by trusting his defense.
“It’s always good when your team gives you a big lead early because it give you some confidence and lets you get comfortable out there. That allowed me to attack the batters and start them off with a strike,” Polanco said. “I knew [the defense] behind me was going to pick me up, so I could go after the batters knowing that my guys would make the plays.”
Jackson State (0-1) pushed across its first run of the game in the sixth inning off Panther reliever Joel Reeves. Reeves got into a bases-loaded jam, but got himself out of it quickly. The junior got Tiger designated hitter Derek Johnson to hit into a double play that scored a run, and finished off the frame with a strikeout.
The Tigers chipped further into the Panther lead in the seventh after loading the bases again. Trailing 9-2, Jackson State pushed across a run on a walk while a tricky single with the Georgia State defense at double-play depth brought home the visitors’ final run.
Holding onto a 9-4 lead, the Panther bats answered in the bottom of the seventh. Joey Wood scored on a JSU error following Mike McCree’s single to right. Rochon-Salvas tripled to right field, bringing home McCree and extending State’s lead to 11-4. Wood capped the scoring in the bottom of the eight with an RBI groundout that brought home Mitch Rider.
Simmons led the Panther offense, going 3-for-4 with a double and RBI. Asher, making his first collegiate start, finished with just one hit but drove in three runs. State collected 10 hits and made the most of the seven walks to score 12 runs.
“I felt good after getting the first hit because it took the pressure off. It felt good being on the field, but it was a total team effort,” said Simmons about his return to the field after redshirting last season.
“The team did fantastic job tonight. Robinson Polanco gave us a lot of confidence with his pitching, and we gave him a lot of confidence with our hitting,” said second-year head coach Greg Frady. “As an offensive club, we expected to hit well and a lot of guys hit the ball well tonight. Derek Simmons got three hits tonight, but it could have been Theo [Asher] or Bradley Logan. A lot of guys hit the ball well; they just didn’t get the hits.”
Senior Bobby Bennett relieved Reeves in the seventh, and threw the final 2.2 innings to close out the game for State. The win was the Panthers’ second home-opening win under head coach Greg Frady in as many years.
The teams return to action tomorrow with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.
NOTES: Bobby Bennett made his 63rd appearance and took sole possession of fourth place on Georgia State’s career appearance list, breaking a tie with Kevin Campbell (1992-95) ... Jean-Michel Rochon-Salvas’ two hits gave him 200 for his career, and moved him into a sixth-place tie on State’s all-time list with Scott Youngbauer (1998-00) ... Rochon-Salvas’ triple in the seventh gave him 11 in his career, tying him with Youngbauer for second in school history.