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ATLANTA — Senior Ryan Blanton hit two home runs, including the go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning, to give Georgia State a 9-7 victory over Georgia Southern in the first game of their Sun Belt Conference series Thursday at the GSU Baseball Complex.
With the win, coupled with a loss by Appalachian State, Georgia State (21-31, 9-19 Sun Belt) stays alive in its bid to earn a spot in the 10-team Sun Belt Tournament. The Panthers must win one more game than App State (8-20 Sun Belt) does in its series at Coastal Carolina.
After Georgia Southern (35-19, 17-11) scored five runs in the seventh to take a 7-5 lead, the Panthers loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning as Romero Greer walked, Luke Leonard singled and Jaylen Woullard walked off reliever Connor Simmons (4-1).
Closer Landon Hughes came on and struck out Jack Thompson for the first out. That brought Blanton to the plate, and the left-handed hitter crushed Hughes’ 1-0 pitch over the right field wall and into the trees, turning the 7-5 deficit into a 9-7 lead. That is the third career grand slam for Blanton, who also led off the game with a solo homer, and it gives the senior eight homers on the season and 23 for his career. He finished the night 4-for-5 with five RBI and three runs scored.
Jansen Acton (2-0) pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing only a bunt single in the eighth, to earn the victory. GSU starter Jordan Lee was outstanding, allowing just one run on two hits over five innings but did not figure in the decision.
Blanton’s leadoff homer–the third time this season and seventh time in his career to lead off a game with a homer–gave Georgia State the early 1-0 lead. Jarrett Hood added a sacrifice fly in the first for a 2-0 advantage after one.
The Panthers added two more runs in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead on another sacrifice fly, this one by Nick Gatewood, and then a run-scoring double off the wall in left center by Hood.
Both teams scored one in the sixth as Logan Baldwin homered for Georgia Southern, and then Thompson delivered an RBI double off the wall in right to give the Panthers a 5-3 lead.
The series continues with a 6 p.m. game Friday.