Category: Sports

Firebird reaches ‘Ultimate’ goal

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Photo Courtesy of @JSUFirebird

JP Wood, Staff Reporter


Football school? Basketball school? Marching band school?

How about ultimate frisbee school?

JSU’s Ultimate team- known as Firebird Ultimate- is making some noise across the region on the ultimate field. The team, still in its infancy as a program, competed in and won their very first sanctioned tournament earlier this month at UAB.

For program founder Andrew Record, this is the culmination of three years of hard work and team building to reach this very point. “This year we finally felt like we were ready. We had beat some teams that were sanctioned earlier and realized we could really start competing.”

Record, set to graduate in May, was part of a pick-up group within the Southerners when he got the idea to start an organized university team.

“I did as much to educate myself on the sport and get better, because I had hadn’t really played competitively before. After that the biggest thing was just recruiting. And that’s the hardest thing to do in any sport, is to get people to commit.” 

Firebird started out in a developmental league for their first two years. These years saw the team playing mostly B-teams and other upstarts. After a non-sanctioned tournament in Samford in the fall which saw JSU Firebird finish second overall, the team realized they were ready for the next level.

That brought them to UAB for their first sanctioned tournament: The Magic City Invite. Entering play as the dead-last #12 seed, JSU upset #1 seed UAB 11-4 in their first game of pool play. JSU would finish pool play undefeated, taking down Middle Tennessee State, Berry, Alabama, and Ole Miss en-route to the four-team playoff the next day. In bracket play, JSU would then defeat North Georgia and Mississippi State to claim the tournament title.

Seven major wins over two days and a first-place finish, all in their first taste of sanctioned play? Not bad.

For Record, this is just the stepping off point for a program with a very high ceiling. To be performing at this level in only its third season is pretty significant. “It’s a big deal for a team this young to be defeating teams that have existed for five, ten, twenty years already, and I think we can keep building upon that.”

JSU Firebird will compete in a sectional tournament this weekend, that will see them face off against teams within their section—teams like Alabama, Auburn, UAB, and Mississippi State. A high finish there will see them move on to regionals where they will matchup with teams from all over the southeast.

With Record’s graduation next month, the program he’s shepherded from the beginning will be passed on to someone else’s hands. In fact, he’s already named two new captains this year in order to prepare them to fully take over next year. One of those captains, Luke Thomas, looks to help the program succeed well into the future.

“Success is not necessarily just from winning, but also seeing the program grow.” he says. Success, he says, starts off the field with recruitment. He also wants to see the team make deep postseason runs and compete in larger tournaments. Under his leadership, he wants to see the team continue its upward trajectory in both wins and recruitment.

JSU Firebird has already initiated one move toward growth: A women’s team. Captained by Emily Yeend, the women’s team is new as of this semester.

“In the fall, the goal is to at least attend one tournament just for fun,” Yeend says. She says that in the past, girls at rookie week can be overwhelmed, and that one goal of the women’s team is to have prospective female players less likely to be intimidated. “I’m trying to get girls interested in playing, because a lot don’t even know what it is.”

If you’re interested in joining the JSU Ultimate team, keep an eye out for their rookie week announcements at the beginning of the fall semester. Rookie week is an opportunity for new players to come out and play with other new players to ease in to the game. If you’ve never played before, don’t let that turn you away. According to the JSU Ultimate website, most players don’t actually learn the game until they reach college.

For more information on the sport and the program here at JSU, jsuultimate.com has an FAQ section with more resources.

JSU upsets Auburn

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JP Wood, Sports Staff Writer


If you saw the score heading into the fourth inning of this one, you likely wouldn’t have bothered to check again. Down 6-0 at nationally ranked Auburn early, the outlook on the rest of the game was bleak.

Don’t tell that to the JSU baseball team though. Having never counted themselves out, the Gamecocks rallied back in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 6, and later put the nail in Auburn’s coffin in the seventh, taking and then extending their lead to 11-6.

Andrew Naismith, a product of Auburn High School, made the most of his homecoming with a 3 RBI game and drew a bases loaded walk. Alex Webb, whose bat is on fire, made it 11 hits over 7 games with a two run double in the fourth. Nic Gaddis recorded the game tying RBI.

Freshmen Isaiah Magwood and Michael Gilliland held the Tigers scoreless over the rest of the game, allowing just 5 hits and striking out 10. Magwood recorded K’s for 7 of the 13 batters he faced.

6 Gamecocks walked in the go-ahead inning, with the go-ahead run being plated after Alex Strachan drew a bases loaded walk. Although they plated 5 runs in the inning, the Gamecocks only collected two hits.

Jax State how now won five of its last nine against the Plainsmen. Auburn will make a return trip to Jacksonville on Tuesday, April 23rd.

JSU will play an OVC series vs Belmont this weekend. First pitch Friday is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

JSU splits with Tennessee Tech in midweek double header

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Baylee Morris, Sports Editor


In an untraditional Tuesday game, the Gamecocks split with Tennessee Tech.

The Gamecocks headed up to Tennessee with a 24-10 record and an OVC record of 8-2 at the end of the double header the Gamecocks split with Tech coming home with a 25-11 record and an OVC record of 9-3.

In their first outing of the day against Tech, Faith Sims pitched a two-hitter and received the win on the day as the Gamecocks went on to defeat Tech 7-0. This game was Sims seventh shutout and 15th complete game of the season. There is no doubt that Sims commands the circle while she is in, especially seeing as after escaping a first inning bases loaded jam, she only allowed two baserunners the remaining six innings of the ballgame.

Sims had help from her offense Tuesday with seven hitters delivering eight hits. Hayley Sims, Lex Hull, and Karsen Mosley delivered three doubles today. While the bats were hot today in game one for the Gamecocks, there were errors delivered on Tennessee Tech’s side that allowed two Gamecock baserunners to score.

The second outing of the day left the Gamecocks hitless. The Gamecocks fell to Tech 2-0 with Arden throwing a no-hitter. Arden went the complete game for Tech while on the other side Nicole Rodriguez would suffer a loss. While only two runs were scored in the game those two runs came off of two solo shots delivered by Sparks and Love-Baker for Tennessee Tech.

The Gamecocks look to finish the week strong in their road trip back to Tennessee on Friday and Sunday. Friday JSU will face Belmont in a double header in Nashville. Then the Gamecocks will travel over to Tennessee State for another double header on Sunday where they wrap up their six-game road trip week.

Gamecocks sweep Tennessee Tech in OVC weekend series

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JSU Sportswire

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.

Who said

—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.”

Next up

—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.

Mayes: Gamecocks didn’t win the OVC in 2019, but planted the seeds of respect

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JSU’s Jason Burnell walks off the floor for the final time as a Gamecock after falling to Murray State in the OVC Semifinals (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


The 2018-19 Jacksonville State Men’s Basketball team didn’t win the OVC.

But so what?

Neither did Belmont. Belmont has been relevant on the national stage as a mid-major for years, and they haven’t won the conference now for five seasons.

So nationally relevant, in fact, that they just got into the big dance as an at-large team,
something that an OVC team hasn’t done since 1987.

So yeah, it’s bittersweet for the Gamecocks to be on the outside looking in.

To see a Belmont team that they swept in the regular season get to board a plane to go play on the big stage.

To see Murray State, who the Gamecocks beat by 20 in their only matchup in the regular
season, get to celebrate with a conference trophy after taking down JSU with a last-second shot in the OVC semis.

The fact of the matter is, there’s really no denying this season’s Gamecocks were the best
version to take the floor during JSU’s Division I history. There’s a reason the official Men’s
Basketball twitter account had to put out a thread last week detailing the program bests the Gamecocks set this year.

Stats like 24 overall wins. 15 conference wins. An 8-game win streak. Third place OVC finish, single-digit losses, a sellout of Pete Mathews Coliseum. All Program Division I bests or firsts.

It’s almost cruel for such a year for the Gamecocks to also coincide with one of the best years the OVC has ever had at the top of the league.

Nevertheless, the year that JSU just finished up is the type of year that is necessary for the Gamecocks to start getting that national respect that got Belmont into the tournament as an at-large.

Despite the never before seen successes that Ray Harper has brought to Jacksonville in his first three seasons, the Gamecocks are still such a new player on the national, heck, even the OVC, scene.

If Jacksonville State keeps this up, it will, slowly but surely, get that respect.

With six seniors from 2018-19 departing, Harper and the Gamecocks will face a new challenge of keeping this thing rolling. Keep proving that he’s made JSU a good program, not just a good team.

From what Harper’s accomplished in his short time in Jacksonville so far, who could doubt he’ll conquer this one just as easily.