Eagles slam Bulldogs

Citadel's Justin Mackert dives safely back to first base. Georgia Southern hosted the Citadel in game 7 of the SoCon baseball tournament Thursday May 24, 2012 at Flour Field.(Richard Shiro/Special to The Post and Courier)

If The Citadel is to win a ninth Southern Conference baseball tournament title, the Bulldogs will have to do it the hard way.

The Citadel, seeded seventh, fell into the losers’ bracket of the tournament Thursday night, dropping an 8-1 decision to No. 6 Georgia Southern at Fluor Field in Greenville.

The Bulldogs (25-32) will have to beat No. 3 seed Elon at 3 p.m. today, then beat the Eagles twice on Saturday just to make it to Sunday’s championship game.

“We will just have to take it one inning at a time, see if we can get by Elon and then have a special day Saturday against Georgia Southern,” said Citadel coach Fred Jordan. “They are a very hot ball club right now, and their pitching tonight was outstanding.”

Georgia Southern (32-26) gets today off before Saturday’s semifinals.

“This is the position you want to be in,” said Eagles coach Rodney Hennon, whose team won the SoCon tourney last year. “We’ll take advantage of getting the day off and find out who we play Saturday.”

Unable to build on the momentum from Wednesday’s dramatic 11-inning victory over College of Charleston, The Citadel was handcuffed for much of this game by Eagles pitcher Justin Hess (5-3). The junior right-hander gave up only one run on four hits over six innings, walking two and striking out seven.

Reliever Jarret Leverett struck out seven more over the last three innings for his seventh save.

Georgia Southern, which pounded Elon, 19-2, in its tourney opener, reached Citadel starter Kevin Connell (1-5) for five runs in the third inning, the big blow a grand slam by first baseman T.D. Davis.

Four walks, two of them with two out, forced in one run before Davis unloaded with a drive over the wall in left-center for a 5-0 lead.

“We walked eight and hit one, and it’s tough to come out on top against anybody when you give that many freebies,” Jordan said. “Especially against the pitching we saw tonight.”

The Eagles are playing without All-American slugger Victor Roache, out with a wrist injury, but have outscored foes 27-3 in the tourney.

“We showed a lot of patience,” said Hennon. “We were able to draw some walks, and then we got the big blow from Davis.”

The Bulldogs got one run back in the sixth on singles by Joe Jackson and Tyler Griffin, sandwiched around a walk, to make it 5-1.

But Georgia Southern scored once in the sixth on Chase Griffin’s sacrifice fly and once in the seventh on Tyler Avera’s RBI single to go up 7-1.