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16 May 2008

JSU Looks to Complete OVC Title

With two wins against UT-Martin, or one win and a Samford loss, the JSU baseball team will clinch the regular-season Ohio Valley Conference title. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star/File

By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

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 to handle.

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 huge.

"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: .

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