by RENALDO DORSETT
In a complete role reversal of what occurred during the regular season, Bahamian Trae Sweeting and his Georgia State Panthers got the better of Georgia Southern when it matters most, in postseason play.
Sweeting was clutch at the plate all afternoon and his late game heroics broke a 2-2 with a two-out single in the eighth inning to plate the go ahead run in the Panthers 3-2 win over the Eagles in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
On an afternoon where he drove in the game winner, Sweeting went 2-4, score a run, with an RBI and recorded a stolen base as the tournament opened at Troy University’s Riddle-Pace Field.
“I just stepped up,” Sweeting said, “I know the team was playing so hard and we were playing such a great game. Me and coach Freddie had a talk right before my at bat and he just said ‘Trae, no pressure, this is your time, let’s get this run in.’ I got up there, fought for it, and did what I had to do for the team in that situation right there.”
Sweeting was locked in a battle with Eagles reliever Ryan Frederick before he broke through with the game winning single.
“He was trying to come inside with some fastballs and he tried to paint the plate, but I think he missed a little bit,” Sweeting said, “I saw it and drove it straight back over the middle.”
The Panthers advance to play top-seeded South Alabama, a 6-2 winner over Arkansas State, Thursday at 5 pm.
“I think it gives us great momentum headed into the rest of the tournament,” Sweeting said, “We get a lot of rest because we played early so we’ll be ready to go and to try to bring this back home to Georgia.”
The leadoff hitter in the Panthers lineup, Sweeting got on base immediately when his hit to third was bobbled by third baseman.
In his next at bat, he had the first hit Georgia State hit of the ballgame with a blooper to shallow right over outstretched arms of the Georgia Southern second baseman.
He was eventually plated on a two RBI single from David Levy.
Sweeting has been vital for the Panthers off the bench and has produced the best numbers of his young career thus far. He appeared in 39 games, including 25 starts.
Sweeting is hitting .296 with an on-base percentage of .405 with five doubles, 12 RBI and seven stolen bases in eight attempts. He also recorded a triple, scored 19 runs and collected 36 total bases
It was the fourth consecutive matchup between the two teams after they faced off in the regular season series finale.
Panthers head coach, Greg Frady, said the familiar foes were poised to add another exciting chapter in the rivalry, and Sweeting was the spark that gave the Panthers’ offence just enough to come out on top.
“We just came off the series with Georgia Southern last weekend so we knew each other pretty well and I think it was a contributing factor in the game being played so closely. I think, at this point we knew what we did well and maybe some weaknesses,” he said, “Trae and I talked about that before the game. We needed him to fight through some adversity and he did that and it was huge and the way he played was great.”
In the final game on the day one schedule, Bahamian pitcher Perez Knowles and his No.2 seeded Troy Trojans took on the number No.7 seed Texas-Arlington Mavericks, however, results were unavailable to press time.
The Sun Belt tournament will be played in a double-elimination format and is scheduled to run from May 20 to the title game on Sunday, May 24.
All games will be available via webstream on SunBeltSports.org. All weekend games, including Sunday’s championship, will be aired live on ESPN3.