Stephen Duke, Correspondent
The JSU Gamecocks baseball team opened the season this past weekend, February 14 through February 16, with a series against Southeastern Missouri. The Tigers from Columbia, Missouri, took two of the three games over the weekend, but the Gamecocks avoided being swept by taking a 9-8 win over the Tigers during Sunday’s game.
Friday was opening day for the Gamecocks. They welcomed the twentieth-ranked Tigers to Rudy Abbott field at Jim Case Stadium for the weekend. Unfortunately, the first game of this series did not go well for the Gamecocks.
While senior Alex Webb hit a pair of two-run home runs, it wasn’t enough for the Gamecocks. Webb entered the season as a Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American, and he also has a lot of hype from the Ohio Valley Conference.
After a 2-2 tie, the Tigers got a 5-2 lead, but the Gamecocks got back within one at 5-4 at the end of the sixth inning. The floodgates then opened, as the Tigers routed the Gamecocks through the final three innings to take the 10-4 win.
The Gamecocks used a rotation of pitchers in this game, starting with Dylan Hathcock, who was in for five innings and was touched for three runs, along with five scattered hits. He also had five strikeouts.
Junior Christian Edwards and redshirt sophomore Trey Fortner split three innings, and freshman Colton Lewis, who made his Gamecock debut, pitched the ninth inning and recorded a pair of strikeouts in the loss.
Saturday’s game in this series was a classic, as those in attendance got some free baseball in extra innings. However, the Gamecocks came up short in the twelfth-inning game against the Tigers by a score of 6-4.
The Gamecocks overcame a 2-0 deficit for a second consecutive day with a three-run fourth inning. The Gamecocks then had a 4-2 lead at the end of the sixth as junior Isaac Alexander picked up his second RBI of the game with a ground out. The Tigers then pushed the game to three extra innings with a two-run eighth inning.
The Gamecocks nearly notched its first win of 2020 in the eleventh inning, but the Gamecocks still came up short. With the bases loaded and two outs for the Gamecocks, Mizzou pitcher Trey Dillard pitched a ground ball out that sent the game into a twelfth inning. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks crumbled with Mizzou runs coming from Brandt Belk and Jackson Lancaster, resulting in the Tigers 6-4 win.
The third time was a charm on Sunday as the Gamecocks pulled off a 9-8 win over the Tigers. With this win, the Gamecocks now have a win over an SEC program in each season going back to the 2017 season. The win also prevented a Mizzou sweep of the series.
Three Gamecocks combined for nine of JSU’s twelve total hits against Tiger pitchers on Sunday. Junior Alex Strachan went 3-for-4 at the plate and delivered three RBIs for the Gamecocks. He also highlighted the Gamecocks five-run first inning effort, where the Gamecocks erased yet another Tiger lead.
Senior Tre Kirklin also added three hits and was a triple short hitting for the cycle. Senior Taylor Craven also added three hits, reaching base four times with a walk. Mizzou tried to make a rally, but it wasn’t enough, as the Gamecocks pulled off the win.
The Gamecocks will welcome the UAB Blazers on Wednesday, February 19 at 3 p.m. They will then have a four-game series at home against Central Michigan that will begin with a double-header on Saturday, February 22 and will wrap up on Monday, February 24. Fans can keep up with the action on 91.9 WLJS or stream the games on ESPN+.