Huggins’ Walk-Off Hit Gives GSU 6-5 Win

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Mike Huggins delivered a walk-off single in the 12th inning to lift Georgia State to a 6-5 victory over Eastern Illinois to complete a three-game sweep at the GSU Baseball Complex.

Luke Leonard led off the bottom of the 12th with a triple off the centerfield wall. He was still at third when Huggins fell behind 0-2 in the count before dropping a single into shallow left field to bring home the winning run for Georgia State, which improved to 7-3 on the season.

GSU led 4-1 after an impressive start by senior right-hander Jordan Lee, who allowed just one run and one hit in a career-long 6-1/3 innings. He struck out a career-high six with three walks.

But Lee was not involved in the decision after Eastern Illinois (5-5) took a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning on a grand slam by Hunter Morris.

Georgia State answered in the bottom half of the inning as Kendall Ford legged out a two-out double, and then senior shortstop Justin Jones tied the game with a single to right field.

Catcher Nick Gatewood turned in a standout performance to help the Panthers to victory. He caught all 12 innings, threw out two runners attempting to steal and picked off another runner at third base. Then, after Eastern Illinois put the winning run on base with a leadoff walk in the 12th, he started a double play on a bunt, catcher-to-second-to-first.

That double play was the 18th of the season for Georgia State, which leads the nation.

Gatewood was also potent at the plate with a pair of doubles, one down the left field line and the other down the right field line. He scored three runs, drove in one and drew two walks.

The junior from Duluth, Ga., drove in GSU’s first run in the first inning as he dropped a double just inside the chalk in left field, scoring Ford, who led off the game with a single. Jack Thompson followed with an RBI-single up the middle to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

After Eastern Illinois got one run back in the second, Georgia State added to its lead in the third. Gatewood led off with a walk, Thompson doubled to put runners at second and third with one out, and Leonard delivered a sacrific fly to put GSU up 3-1.

Gatewood and Thompson, the senior first baseman who finished with three hits and two RBI, came through again in the seventh. Gatewood led off with a double and Thompson singled him home for a 4-1 lead.

After Eastern Illinois took the lead in the eighth, closer Jansen Acton came on to pitch 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. Brandon Bell got a big strikeout in the 11th, and Brandon Baker pitched the final 1.1 innings to earn his first victory.

Georgia State returns to action Wednesday, when the Panthers host Georgia Tech in a 5 p.m. game at the GSU Baseball Complex.

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