The Jacksonville State baseball team already has locked up a first-round bye
in the upcoming conference tournament, but it still has some unfinished business
The Gamecocks, one of the hottest teams in the country, go into their final
regular-season series at UT-Martin today with a chance to clinch the Ohio Valley
Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 tournament seed.
The Gamecocks (33-19, 20-4 OVC) hold a game and a half lead and the
tiebreaker over Samford (32-19, 18-5) with three games to play.
They can clinch their second OVC regular-season title with two wins against
the last-place Skyhawks (10-38, 5-17) or one win and get a Samford loss. The
Bulldogs close their regular season at Tennessee Tech, one of five teams
fighting for the four remaining playoff spots.
"We couldn't have picked a better place to be at the end of season,"
Gamecocks catcher Andrew Edge said. "To be able to clinch at UT-Martin would be
"The 1 and 2 seeds both get byes in the tournament, and that's always big,
but to come out and know that you're the best in the regular season, you've got
a little bit of momentum going into the tournament."
The Gamecocks certainly aren't short on momentum right now. In fact, they're
playing their best ball of the year.
Their 13-game winning streak is second to LSU for the longest active streak
in the country. They've won 11 consecutive OVC games and 11 straight OVC series.
They've scored 10 or more runs and collected 14 or more hits in nine of their
past 10 games.
Clay Whittemore leads the team with a .423 average, eight home runs and 60
RBIs, but the Gamecocks have four others — Steven Leach, Brian Piazza, Todd
Cunningham and Bert Smith — hitting .330 or better. Ben Tootle is their
winningest pitcher (9-2), but relievers Brian Booth (8-0) and Alex Jones (7-2)
have a combined 15 wins.
"The team the second year we were here, the last year in the Atlantic Sun,
that team probably played as well as any as we've had since I've been here at
the end of the year," coach Jim Case said. "At the beginning of the year, you
could almost knock us over with a feather; by the end of the year, nobody wanted
to play us. I was proud of that team.
"This team, I'm proud of it, too. We lost a lot … for guys to be able to step
up like they have, I'm proud of them for that."
Today: Jacksonville State at UT-Martin
(DH), 1 p.m.
About Al Muskewitz
Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State
University sports teams for The Anniston Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com