ATLANTA -- Chase Raffield belted a three-run double to highlight a seven-run fifth inning and Scott Sarratt and Chris Triplett homered as Georgia State rallied from a 5-1 deficit to earn a 12-7 victory over Butler in the season opener for both teams Friday afternoon at the GSU Baseball Complex.
Freshman Josh Merrigan collected three hits in his first game for the Panthers (1-0), including a two-run single that tied the game in the decisive fifth inning.
Junior Ben Burns (0-1), a transfer from Daytona State College, earned the victory in relief of starter Nick Squeglia.
"I'm really proud of our team. We got down 5-1 with a new team it's easy to panic and lose focus," said head coach Greg Frady. "We huddled in the dugout and said what we need to do is take advantage of our RBI situations and get a big hit, but first we need to get them out. I thought the team responded really well."
In his first action in nearly two years after being injured in 2012, GSU starter Nick Squeglia got off to a slow start, allowing five runs in the first three innings, including solo home runs to Jimmy Risi and Patrick Guinane.
The Panthers got on the board with Sarratt's solo homer in the second inning but trailed 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth when they began their comeback.
After Triplett homered with one out, Merrigan doubled and then scored on another double by Drew Shields, pulling GSU within 5-3.
With one out in the fifth, Georgia State loaded the bases as freshman Matt Rose singled, Caden Bailey doubled and Sarratt walked. After Triplett struck out, Merrigan delivered a two-run single to center to tie the game at 5-5 and chase Butler starter Eric Stout (0-1) from the game.
Reliever Billy Laing walked Shields to load the bases and then plunked Greg Bowder to give the Panthers their first lead at 6-5. That brought the left-handed hitting Raffield to the plate, and the junior college transfer from Middle Georgia crushed the ball over the center fielder's head to clear the bases. Raffield also scored on the play after a throwing error, and the Panthers led, 10-5.
"I was down two strikes and I was just trying to make good contact," said Raffield. "It was my first Division I hit, so to clear the bases and help the team out like that felt really great.
Frady added, "Chase Raffield's bases-clearing double was a monster hit, and I thought Josh Merrigan's single that got us back to 5-5 was really big. Of course you're always energized by homers, and we got those from Scott Sarratt and Chris Triplett."
Georgia State added single runs in the seventh on an RBI single by pinch hitter Mark Hogan and in the eighth on a throwing error by the catcher.
Burns came on in the top of the fifth inning and did not allow a hit in 2-1/3 innings to earn the victory. Freshman Brantley Burton and sophomore Connor Stanley pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
"Ben Burns put up a couple of zeros, and that got the game under control for us and gave us a chance to catch up," said Frady. "We had some first-game jitters, At the end of the night, the play on the baseball field won the game, and that's what you want as a coach."
The two teams continue their three-game series Saturday at 1 p.m. at the GSU Baseball Complex.
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