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12 May 2008

JSU Pounds Way Closer to OVC Title

By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE For all the offense produced in Sunday's game, it was eight straight pitches outside the strike zone that gave Jacksonville State its 12th straight win.

The Gamecocks and Tennessee Tech combined for 26 runs and 30 hits, but it was back-to-back four-pitch walks to Matt McLaughlin and Andrew Edge with the bases loaded in the seventh that gave JSU a wild 14-12 victory and its third straight Ohio Valley Conference series sweep.

"It was pretty unorthodox, considering how the wind was blowing and the way everybody was hitting the ball," Edge said, "but we'll take it any way we can get it."

The Gamecocks' final home game of the season was an emotional seesaw for both teams. JSU (32-19, 20-4 OVC) erased a 3-0 deficit with nine runs in the third inning, then gave up nine to Tech (31-20-1, 11-13) all with two outs in the fourth.

The Gamecocks tied the game with a three-run sixth, capped by Edge's two-run double, then took the lead for good in the seventh.

"I tell you what, this team's resilient," McLaughlin said. "This is by far the most resilient team I've ever played on. We find a way to win every game. So, really, with the way the season's gone, nothing's odd."

In the winning rally, the Gamecocks loaded the bases on singles by Bert Smith and Steven Leach the fourth hit of the game for each player and a hit batsman.

McLaughlin went sent to pinch-hit against Chad Oberacker and, showing great discipline to resist the urge to make something happen, patiently watched four consecutive balls.

"It's tough because you want to get your pitch, but you don't want to go chasing something out of the zone and get a cheap out," McLaughlin said. "Being a pinch-hitter, in my opinion, you just want to be a tough at-bat and just try to find a way to get on and do something positive for your team.

"I was geared up, I was looking for something over the heart of the plate to take a hack at, but I was trying to find the right pitch and got four out of the zone."

Edge came up next and watched four more balls, although the last one could have gone either way.

"It was up at the plate, but it was low, and I knew it was low," Edge said. "(Plate umpire Mike McCray) called 'ball' and I was tossing my bat, but in the back of my head I was thinking, 'Did he call that a strike?' As soon as the run came across, then I knew it was ball four."

Oxford's Jake Edwards came on for the Golden Eagles after Edge's walk and got a strikeout to end the inning, but the damage was done.

Tech threatened in the eighth, putting the tying runs in scoring position with one out, but side-winding junior Alex Jones never flinched and got out of the jam, eventually earning his sixth victory of the season.

"It's not his first rodeo, you know," JSU coach Jim Case said. "He's been in big situations before."

The victory helped the Gamecocks maintain a game and a half lead on Samford for the OVC regular-season title with three games to play.

Their winning streak is tied with LSU for second-longest in the country, behind only New Orleans' 13 straight.

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: .

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