Citadel relief pitcher Ryan Hines is not quite sure why his teammates call him “Dump Truck.”
“I guess it’s because I just kind of dump the ball in there,” said the side-winding junior from Hanahan High School.
Whatever the reason, Dump Truck delivered a clutch performance during yet another Sunday comeback victory for the Bulldogs’ baseball team. With his team clinging to an 8-7 lead, Hines struck out Georgia Southern’s Ben Morgan with runners at second and third in the eighth inning, then worked a perfect ninth to preserve The Citadel’s victory before 348 fans at Riley Park.
The Bulldogs scored six runs in the third to rally from a 3-0 deficit, taking two of three from Georgia Southern and strengthening their hold on a berth in the eight-team Southern Conference tournament, set for next month in Greenville.
The Citadel (19-25, 9-12) is in seventh place in the SoCon, building on its lead over No. 8 Furman (7-14) and No. 9 Davidson (7-17), its foes over the next two weekends.
“Georgia Southern is a contender, and hopefully we’re becoming a pretender,” said Citadel coach Fred Jordan, whose team has posted Sunday comeback wins over Wofford, Samford, UNC Greensboro and now GSU (24-21, 11-10). “This league is so difficult, there’s no telling where we might end up. We could end up in the middle, we could end up in the end or we could end up out. We’ve just got to play good baseball.”
Hines, a 5-11, 215-pounder who came to The Citadel as a third baseman, has helped shore up the bullpen down the stretch. He picked up his second save of the series and fifth of the season, allowing one run in two innings, but making some clutch pitches when he had to.
He struck out Morgan with the tying run at third in the eighth, catching the Eagles’ second baseman looking at an inside fastball. In the ninth, Hines got GSU’s top hitter, Eric Phillips, to hit a harmless fly ball to left to end the game.
“He’s an amazing story,” Jordan said. “He went this summer and learned his craft, being a sidearm reliever for us, and has done a good job. We dropped him down (to a sidearm delivery) last year, but he didn’t throw enough strikes. He’s come a long way.”
GSU is without All-America slugger Victor Roache, who broke his wrist just six games into the season. He could return for the SoCon tournament, but the Eagles must fix a defense to regain their status as preseason SoCon favorite.
The Bulldogs were down 3-0 when they scored six runs on five hits and three GSU errors in the third, two of the errors on mishandled bunts. Joe Jackson delivered a two-run double, and Bo Thompson and Hughston Armstrong also drove in runs.
Citadel reliever James Reeves (6-3) got the win with 31/3 innings of work, and Jackson was 3 of 4 with two RBIs.
The Bulldogs next host North Florida in midweek games Tuesday and Wednesday.