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ATLANTA — Ryan Blanton went 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBI to lead Georgia State to a 9-3 victory over Troy in their Sun Belt Conference series opener Thursday at the GSU Baseball Complex.
Darius Sewell also homered and had three hits, Cam Sperry drove in two runs and Liam Henry turned in a strong relief effort to help the Panthers (11-21, 2-11 Sun Belt) snap their 11-game losing streak.
The Panthers had to overcome adversity after falling behind 2-0 in the first inning and then losing starting pitcher Devin Vainer to an injury in the third inning, but the GSU bullpen allowed just one run on six hits while striking out over seven innings.
Troy (17-15, 5-8 Sun Belt) jumped in front with two runs in the first and then had the bases loaded with no outs in the second. Vainer struck out Steven Whitaker and then rolled a double-play grounder fielded by third baseman Romero Greer, who stepped on the bag and then threw to first to end the inning.
Blanton tied the game with a two-run single in the bottom of the second, scoring Sewell, who singled with one out, and Jarrett Hood, who walked.
One inning later, Sperry put the Panthers ahead for good with a run-scoring single, and then in the fourth, Blanton smacked a solo homer to right center, his team-leading sixth of the season, for a 4-2 lead.
Leading 4-3, Georgia State exploded for five runs in the seventh. Blanton got things started with his fourth hit of the day, beating out an infield single with a slide at first base. Justin Jones followed with a single and Nick Gatewood walked to load the bases. Greer grounded out to bring in one run, and then Sperry delivered his second run-scoring single, on which a second run scored on a throwing error by the right fielder to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead.
Then Sewell hit a two-run homer to left, his second, for a 9-3 advantage.
Vainer, making just his second start of the season, left the game after hitting Brandon Lockridge to lead off the fourth. Jansen Acton (1-0) came on and immediately picked off Lockridge trying to steal second base. Acton finished the inning with a pop up and a strike out and then pitched a scoreless fourth inning, working out of a bases-loaded jam with an inning-ending strikeout. He was credited with his first win for the Panthers.
Henry, the sophomore right-hander, pitched the next four innings, allowing one run on four hits with four strikeouts, and then Tyler Koch struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning to finish the win.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m., with audio on GeorgiaStateSports.com.