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21 May 2007
JSU Hurler Pitches Gem
as Gamecocks Split with Murray

From Staff Reports
The Anniston Star

Reprinted here in its entirety.

MURRAY, Ky. — Junior Donovan Hand had eight strikeouts and allowed just three hits in a 10-inning complete-game win to lead Jacksonville State to a 2-1 win over Murray State in the second game of the final Ohio Valley Conference series on Friday.

The 'Breds used a strong pitching performance by Mike Perconte to earn a 6-3 win in the opener.

The Gamecocks improved to 30-25 and 17-9 in the OVC, while Murray State improved to 18-32, 12-12. It marks the fifth straight 30-win season for the Gamecocks, who are still just one game out of first-place Austin Peay and one-half game ahead of Southeast Missouri State after both the Govs and Redhawks split their games on Friday.

The first game loss to Murray State could've spelled disaster for the Gamecocks' chance for a first-round bye next week at the OVC Tournament, but Hand stepped up with one of his best pitching performances of his career.

The Hatton, Ala., native retired the final 19 batters he faced and did not issue any walks to improve his record to 7-7 on the season. He threw 121 pitches and lowered his ERA to a season-best 3.91. Murray State's Anthony Stacy (2-1) scattered eight hits and allowed just two runs in 9.1 innings to get stuck with the loss.

“Donovan was just fantastic,” said JSU head coach Jim Case. “I don't know if there was anybody else we would want on the mound in a must-win situation. To come up as big as he did and to retire the final 19 was magnificent and a huge shot in the arm for our team.

“We are such a good offensive club and have been all year, but when you get shut down like we did, the job of the pitcher is to continue to throw up zeros,” added Case. “He was just in total command.”

Hand recorded the first four outs of the game, then gave up a one-out double to right center in the second inning to allow his first hit. After striking out Tyler Owen for the second out, he got Andrew Cella to fly out to right field to end the inning. He then cruised until the fifth inning, when he gave up his other two hits.

James Aiken reached on a one-out single through the left side, then stole second and moved to third after JSU catcher Andrew Edge made a bad throw to second. Tyler Pittman then hit a 2-1 pitch up the middle, just out of reach of Hand, to score Aiken and tie the game at 1-1 with the unearned run. Murray State would not reach base again as the game went three extra frames.

“I really felt like I got in a zone,” said Hand, who has earned OVC Pitcher of the Week honors three times this year. “I wasn't worried about throwing hard, I just wanted to hit my spots and location and try to make pitches.”

The 10 innings on the mound was the longest outing by any pitcher in the OVC this season and also was a career-long outing for Hand. He has allowed just five hits in his last 17.0 innings while pitching on the road.

Jax State took a 1-0 lead in the second inning after Edge had a two-out single down the right field line and moved to second when Kyle McCreary followed with an infield bunt single to third. Josh Sanders then singled to right field to score Edge and give the Gamecocks the lead.

Jax State scored the winning run in the top of the 10th inning after McCreary led off with a double down the right field line and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Sanders. With the infield playing in, Bert Smith singled up the middle to score McCreary for JSU's fifth final at-bat win of the year.

McCreary finished 3-for-4 to lead the Gamecocks, while Edge was 2-for-4. Pittman had two of Murray State's three hits.

Ben Tootle will get the start in the final regular-season game today at 1 p.m.

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