JSU Downs Samford, but Austin Peay Takes Nightcap to Claim NCAA Bid
By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer
Reprinted here in its entirety.
|Jacksonville State’s Kyle McCreary is tagged out at
home plate by Samford catcher Luke Peavy during Saturday’s Ohio Valley
Conference losers’ bracket final at Paducah, Ky. JSU rallied to win 10-8 but
lost 3-2 to Austin Peay later Saturday, with Austin Peay clinching the
Photo: Steve Latham/Jacksonville State Univ.
PADUCAH, Ky. — For the second time in three years, Jacksonville State third
baseman Jake Ball sat glumly in the third-base dugout at Brooks Stadium and
watched Austin Peay celebrate an Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship
at the Gamecocks’ expense.
It’s a feeling you never outgrow.
Using another strong pitching performance, the top-seeded Governors beat the
Gamecocks 3-2 Saturday to win the OVC Tournament and claim the conference’s
automatic bid for the NCAA regionals.
Speculation has the Governors (39-20) heading to Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks have played for the OVC title all four years they’ve been in
the league. They won it in 2004 and 2006, while Peay took it from them in 2005
and again Saturday.
“I got to do it twice,” said Ball, who played his last game in a JSU uniform
Saturday. “You see another team do it, it’s tough to watch.”
For the second time in two days, Peay stifled the Gamecocks’ league-leading
hitters. Ryne Mantooth, demoted to No. 3 starter after the Gamecocks swept Peay
in the regular season series, limited JSU to five hits over 7 1/3 innings before
Ben Wilshire closed the deal for his ninth save.
The Gamecocks (33-27) did threaten in the ninth, but left two runners in
scoring position when pinch-hitter Jay Harrington ended the game with a ground
out to short. Harrington had two of JSU’s four hits against Peay on Friday
“We’re a very good offensive team and have been, and they were able to shut
us down,” JSU head coach Jim Case said. “We haven’t been shut down very often.
“To our guys’ credit, in both of those games, we kept clawing and trying to
find a way to win. Today, when we fell behind. ... We found a way to get the
winning run to second base to end the game. When you’re behind, that’s all you
can ask for is that opportunity, and our guys gave us that chance.”
The Gamecocks put their hopes on extending the season on a veteran pitcher
who had struggled most of the year.
Clark Jinks entered the game 0-3 with a 9.19 ERA and had allowed 12 earned
runs and 12 walks in his last three outings. But on this day, stoked by
something he found in a strong intra-squad outing right before the team left for
Kentucky, he was as good as he had been in a while.
Case was looking for someone to give an extraordinary effort, and Jinks did.
Making only his fifth start of the season, the senior right-hander gave the
Gamecocks 6 1/3 good innings. It was his longest outing since going seven in a
10-strikeout performance against Alabama A&M as a freshman in 2003.
He was touched for a run in the first, but nothing more. He allowed six hits
and struck out a season-high seven batters.
“I just wanted to go out there and give our team a chance to win,” Jinks
said. “Hold them to as little runs as possible and hope we come through with a
hit. I just did the best I could.”
Said Case, “For him to go six-and-a-third innings after not pitching that
long this year was just a fantastic heart job by him.”
The Gamecocks were still leading 2-1 when Case lifted Jinks in favor of
closer Alex Jones after the Govs got the tying run to second in the seventh
inning. The first batter Jones faced kept the inning alive when Ball lost his
concentration on Rafael Hill’s grounder and played it into an error.
“It wasn’t a tough play at all,” Ball lamented. “I just took my eye off it
and missed it.”
Jones then walked Jacob Crass to load the bases. J.B. Gilbert scored the
tying run on a sacrifice fly, and Hill scored what proved to be the game-winner
on Jake Lane’s sharp single to left.
The walk was somewhat out of character for Jones, who had a 20-3
strikeout-to-walk ratio in his last six regular-season appearances. But he also
walked the only two batters he faced in the elimination game against Samford.
“Walks are part of the game,” Case said. “I know he’s out there competing as
hard as he can compete. I don’t have any qualms about going with Alex in that
situation because that’s been our guy in that situation for a long period of
time now, and I think there’s a lot of confidence when he’s out there.”
Just as they did in their 10-8 elimination game victory over Samford earlier
in the day, the Gamecocks fell behind in the first, then took the lead in their
This time, they scored twice to take a 2-1 lead.
Ball, playing in his OVC-record-tying 224th career game, pulled a one-out
double into the left-field corner to tie the score, then came home when Allen
Rose beat the relay back to the bag on his potential inning-ending double play
In the ninth, Brian Piazza singled, and pinch-hitter Eric Beck got hit in the
foot. Both were replaced by pinch-runners — Josh Hoyle for Piazza and Daniel
Adamson for Beck.
Adamson was erased on a close fielder’s choice by Kyle McCreary, but Hoyle
made it to third. McCreary then swiped second without a throw, but the
Gamecocks’ season ended on Harrington’s grounder.
“That was a great opportunity at the end, but we really didn’t have a lot of
great opportunities after the first inning,” Case said. “The key to making those
type of things happen is giving yourself more than one opportunity.”
JSU 10, Samford 8
The Gamecocks advanced to the championship round by coming from behind twice
to beat Samford in a game Case speculated the night before could be a wild one.
JSU freshman starter Ben Tootle gave up three in the top of the first, but
the Gamecocks scored five in the bottom of the inning. Then, after giving up
bases-loaded walk in the top of the eighth to fall behind 8-7, they scored three
in the bottom of the inning to go ahead for good.
Ball’s sacrifice fly tied the game at 8. Rose’s soft, opposite-field single
put the Gamecocks ahead 9-8, and they got an insurance run when McCreary beat
the throw to first on his potential inning-ending double play.
Samford tied the game 7-7 in the sixth on Bear Burnett’s second grand slam of
The Bulldogs loaded the bases with none out in the eighth, but got only one
run out of it. Brett Harris relieved Jones and gave up the bases-loaded walk to
force in a run, then got out of the jam with a strikeout and fly out. Harris put
the Bulldogs down in order in the ninth.
About Al Muskewitz
Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State
University sports teams for The Star.
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