Grant Benefield, Staff Sports Writer
With the first official practice already in the books, hype for Jacksonville State baseball’s 2018 campaign is in full swing.
After playing their entire home schedule at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, AL, last season, the Gamecocks will be more than eager to return to campus. And the wait for the much-anticipated new stadium project is nearly complete, with Rudy Abbott Field set to open on April 3rd when the Gamecocks host the University of Alabama.
JSU defeated the Crimson Tide not once, but twice last season by scores of 2-1 and 11-8.
Speaking of last season, the Gamecocks finished 30-26 (17-13 OVC) and continued their OVC tournament attendance streak, making it for the 14th consecutive year since the team’s move to the Ohio Valley Conference.
The team’s tournament appearance left last season on a sour note, however, as the Gamecocks were eliminated in their first two games, marking the first time JSU failed to win a game in the OVC tournament since the 2013 season.
The Gamecocks lose seven lettermen from last season, including infielder Josh Bobo, who played in 52 games last season and averaged .249 with 22 RBIs and 27 runs scored.
JSU also loses two key pitchers in Joe McGuire and Justin Hoyt. McGuire earned 2017 OVC Pitcher of the Year honors, posting an 8-1 record in 12 starts and a 3.20 ERA with an opponent batting average of .209. Hoyt was stellar in the closer role last season, posting a .282 ERA with 9 saves in 25 appearances.
The Gamecocks will sport 18 returning lettermen and 15 newcomers in 2018, including senior infielder Clayton Daniel. Daniel earned his third-consecutive All-OVC honors and was the only Gamecock to start all 56 games last season.
Also returning is junior LHP Derrick Adams, who posted the largest workload of JSU pitchers last season with 85.2 innings pitched. Adams earned All-OVC honors, claiming a 7-3 record in 15 starts.
The Gamecocks will kick off their 2018 campaign on February 16th at Choccolocco Park with a 3-game series against Southern Illinois. The Gamecocks’ first 17 home games will be hosted at Choccolocco Park, until the inaugural game against Alabama on April 3rd.