Sadie Appleton, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State University Softball team kicked off their 2020 season this past weekend with a road trip east to compete in the Kennesaw State Phyllis Rafter Memorial Classic in Kennesaw, Georgia. Seven seniors left the team last season, presenting an opportunity for several younger players to make an impression for the new season.
Coming off a Ohio Valley Conference Championship victory in the previous season, the Gamecocks are hoping to continue their impressive performance in 2020 after finishing second alongside Southeastern Missouri in the OVC tournament in the year prior.
Opening the tournament against Purdue Fort Wayne, the Gamecocks began the new season with a challenging bout. The Mastodons put up scores quickly in the second inning, leading the Gamecocks 4-1. However, JSU turned the tide quickly to take control of the pace by putting up a pair of runs in the third inning thanks to an RBI from senior Alexus Jimmerson and junior Jada Terry, slicing the deficit to one.
A sac fly from Terry and a two-run single from Jimmerson put Jax State in front with 6-4 at the end of the sixth. Maddie Clay, a transfer from Georgia State, built up the lead to 8-4 after punching in a two-run double at the bottom of the seventh inning.
Sophomore Hannah Brown walked on to the mound during the third inning and helped hold the Mastodons scoreless up until the seventh frame, where they put up three runs, bringing the tally to 8-7. Brown’s pitching helped seal the victory following a pop up fly ball from Purdue Fort Wayne that resulted in the game’s final out.
Terry was the Gamecocks’ leader at the plate with a 2-for-2 game in which she also punched in a pair of runs. Jimmerson had three RBI followed closely by Clay with two.
Following the win, the Gamecocks faced up against tournament host Kennesaw State, where Jacksonville State struggled to keep up. The Owls entered the initial inning aggressively, putting in four runs. Jax State gained their only run of the game late in the third following a leadoff double from a fresh-faced Megan Fortner, who scored after a two-out error from KSU, cutting the deficit to three. Things never improved for the Gamecocks, unfortunately, as the Owls put in another five in the fifth, ending the game via mercy rule.
Day two of the tournament was cancelled due to snow. JSU was set to face Purdue Fort Wayne once again, but rare Georgia snow showers in the morning and early afternoon forced tournament officials to cancel all games for the day.
The final day of the tournament set the JSU Gamecocks and KSU Owls up for another face off. After a mercy rule ended the game early for the Owls, JSU looked for redemption in the rematch. However, things got off to a rocky start quickly for the Gamecocks who struggled to regather after KSU pulled in eight runs in the second inning to capture a strong lead. Kennesaw State scored in every inning and held Jacksonville State scoreless, ending the weekend with a 12-0 win for the host team.
Brown took the loss for Jax State, giving up four runs on three hits and three walks in over one inning. Junior Nicole Rodriguez surrendered five runs on three hits and two walks in a third of an inning. Redshirt-Freshman Macy Bearden threw the final two runs and 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on six hits.
Jacksonville State continues their season on the road once again in Conway, South Carolina at the Coastal Carolina Battle at the Beach. Their first matchup will be against Delaware State on February 14 at 11:45 a.m.