ATLANTA--Chad Prain and Josh Merrigan hit back-to-back home runs to tie the game in the fourth inning and then drove in the go-ahead runs two innings later to send Georgia State on its way to a 13-8 victory over Old Dominion in the opening game of their Colonial Athletic Association series Friday evening at the GSU Baseball Complex.
Ben Burns (4-1) pitched 4-2/3 innings of strong relief to earn his team-leading fourth victory as the Panthers (12-6, 3-1 CAA) won for the eighth time in their last 10 games. Old Dominion fell to 9-7, 2-2.
The Panthers took a 5-1 lead after two innings, but Old Dominion answered with three runs in the third and then three more in the fourth to move ahead, 7-5.
The Monarchs could have added more, but Burns came on in relief of starter Jerry Stuckey with one out in the fourth inning, three runs in and a runner at second. Before he even threw a pitch, he picked off Josh Eldridge from second base for the second out, and then got out of the inning without further damage.
"I thought that really turned the momentum, defensively, for us," said GSU head coach Greg Frady. "Ben sold it and made a great play. I'm very proud of Ben and I'm extremely proud of the team."
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Prain, the junior shortstop, belted his first homer of the season to right centerfield. Then Merrigan, GSU's freshman center fielder, hit his first round-tripper to left center.
"Those were so huge," said Frady. "Both of those home runs came to the opposite field, so they did a great job hitting the ball where it was pitched and really drove the ball.
"Ben's stop, picking the guy off , and then those two home runs, put us back in control of the game."
Two innings later, Prain gave Georgia State the lead for good with an RBI-groundout off Brad Gero (2-2), and then Merrigan delivered a run-scoring single to put the Panthers ahead, 9-7.
Old Dominion got one run back in the seventh on the fifth homer of the season by Ben Verlander, younger brother of Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, but the Panthers added a key insurance run in the bottom of the inning on Mark Hogan's sacrifice fly. GSU scored three more in the eighth on an RBI single by Chris Triplett and a two-run double by Joey Roach, and then Connor Stanley pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Burns, the junior lefty, allowed just four hits and one run in 4-2/3 innings while striking out three.
"He comes into the game, throws the ball in the strike zone, and settles the game down," Frady said of Burns. "He's got four of our 12 wins. He means the world to our team. He's just invaluable, and I can't say enough great things about him.
"Our bullpen deserves a lot of credit," continued Frady. "If you look at the games we're winning, our bullpen is really doing the job."
Merrigan, who walked three times on the night, went 2-for-2 with two RBI and three runs scored. Prain drove in three runs on two hits, and Scott Sarratt contributed a two-run single.
GSU's Caden Bailey scored three runs but failed to get a hit, snapping his hitting streak at 19 games.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. Freshman left-hander Garrett Ford, this week's CAA Rookie of the Week, takes the mound for Georgia State.