PANTHERSVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia State baseball team led for the first three innings against James Madison in their Colonial Athletic Association contest, but the Dukes led the final six to claim an 8-3 win Sunday afternoon at The Field at Panthersville. Matt Van Horn and Derek Simmons led the Panther offense with two hits each while Chase Childers hit his second home run of the season.
Georgia State (9-4, 0-3 CAA) got on the board in the bottom of the first after Joey Wood’s leadoff walk. Matt Van Horn doubled to the gap in left. Wood scored standing up from first, but Van Horn got hung up between second and third to record the first out of the inning. The 1-0 lead was the first lead of the weekend for the Panthers.
James Madison (8-3, 5-1 CAA) answered back in the fourth off State starter Drew Grant (record). With runners on the corner, Steven Caseres laced a triple down the right field line to bring in two runs. After an RBI groundout, Grant ran into more trouble and left with one out and runners at first and second. State reliever Will Palmer fared no better than Grant, giving up a first-pitch three-run homer to Matt Townsend that gave the visitors a 6-1 lead.
In the fifth, JMU and State traded runs. McKinnon Langston drove in the Dukes run with a double to left center. The Panthers got the run back with a double from Bradley Logan and an RBI-single to center field from Dusty Bennett.
James Madison tacked on an insurance run in the sixth on an RBI single from Steven Caseres, off Palmer, extending its lead to 8-2.
Panther reliever Adam Knight came in at the top of the seventh, and made quick work of the Duke batters. In his 1.1 innings of work, the junior righty surrendered one hit, walked one and struck out one before lefty Bobby Bennett took over with one out in the eighth. Bennett walked the first batter he faced, but recorded a groundout and fly out to finish the frame.
Duke starter Kyle Hoffman (2-0) gave the visitors a quality start, striking out seven Panthers while giving up two runs on six hits in eight innings. “The [JMU] pitching staff did a good job all weekend keeping us off balance,” said assistant coach Brad Stromdahl.
After a 1-2-3 inning to open the game from Grant, the Panthers got another perfect inning to close the game. Reliever David Ferrer came in to face JMU in the top of the ninth, registering a groundout and a pair of fly-ball outs to keep the deficit to 8-2 entering the bottom of the inning.
Chase Childers led off the bottom of the frame with a lined shot to right center, bringing State within 8-3. Derek Simmons followed up with a single up the middle that deflected off JMU reliever Jason Kuhn. Kuhn tallied one strikeout before the Dukes made a change and brought in Kevin Munson, who quickly finished off the frame to give the visitors a series sweep.
“You have to tip your hat to James Madison. They came out and did their job this weekend,” Stromdahl said. “We’ve been a little cold offensively, but our bullpen has pitched extremely well. All of our relievers have done a good job keeping us in games and giving us chances to come back.”
Van Horn and Simmons paced the Panther attack, each tallying two hits. Bennett, Childers and Van Horn each drove in a run for State.
“There are 27 conference games left, so we have an opportunity to bounce back. We just need to continue learning and make quicker adjustments when we face good pitching,” Stromdahl said about his team’s first losing streak of the season.
State concludes its 14-game homestand Wednesday against cross-town rival Georgia Tech at 6 p.m.
NOTES: State starter Drew Grant gave up his first runs of the season in the fourth, ending his scoreless innings streak at 15.0. Grant was two outs short of tying the school record set by David Hawkins in 2002 ... Bobby Bennett made his 65th career appearance, breaking a tie with Ryan Patrylo (1998-01) and Justin Singleton (1998-01) for sole possession of second place in Panther history ... Jean-Michel Rochon-Salvas’ single in the 8th tied him for third in school history with Eric Suttle (2004-07).