Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief
JACKSONVILLE — Entering the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday against Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville State needed a run to stay alive.
Two batters and two home runs later, Jacksonville State had an 8-7 win and a series sweep over the Golden Eagles.
Nic Gaddis led off the inning and blasted one over the left-field line. Then Taylor Craven, pinch-hitting for his first at-bat of the day, crushed the game winner to the same spot.
“I took a fastball that I probably should have swung at, so I was sitting on that second one,” Craven said. “I knew it was coming, it hung, so I just tried to put a good swing on it.”
The Gamecocks’ win earned them their first sweep of the year in the three-game series over the Golden Eagles. JSU came into the day with a series victory already clinched thanks to wins Friday and Saturday.
“It’s a big thing to be able to sweep a conference series,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “It’s hard to sweep no matter what. When you fall behind like we did for the second time in two days, I was really proud of our guys that they battled back and found a way to win.”
Tennessee Tech got on the board first Sunday when John Dyer singled to plate Kevin Strohschein in the top of the first. The Golden Eagles did more damage in the top of the third, as Jason Hinchman blasted a three-run homer out of left field, putting the Golden Eagles up 4-0.
Aided by errors, Jacksonville State battled back in the bottom of the third. Isaiah Magwood scored after reaching second due to an error, then, after Gaddis drove in Cole Frederick, Tennessee Tech was unable to catch Chase Robinson’s infield fly, allowing Gaddis to come home.
After Tech added three again in the fourth, Gaddis doubled with the bases loaded to score two in the bottom of the inning and bring the Gamecocks back within 7-5.
Isaac Alexander plated Gaddis with an RBI single in the seventh to draw the Gamecocks within one, setting up the ninth-inning heroics.
What to know
—Gaddis was his usual menace for opponents at the plate on Sunday. The senior finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs, including his ninth-inning homer.
—Christian Edwards (2-3) picked up the win for the Gamecock after pitching the final 1 2/3 innings, holding Tennessee Tech scoreless and striking out four.
—The sweep over Tennessee Tech was the first of the Golden Eagles by the Gamecocks since 2010.
—Craven on his game-winner: “I’ve been struggling a lot, but I’ve had good teammates around me that encourage me every day, so it’s just nice to step up for them.”
—Case on bringing in Craven: “I had some thoughts going in on what I would do if Gaddis got on base and what I would do if he didn’t. What I didn’t factor in was what I would do if he hit a home run. I had to make kind of a quick decision. I felt like if (Craven) could get one up, it had a chance to go out.”
—The Gamecocks (14-14, 6-3 OVC) get back to a .500 winning percentage and earn their first series sweep of the season. The Gamecocks will travel to Cape Girardeau, Mo., next for a three-game series beginning Friday.