Maybe the Ohio Valley Conference should rename its annual postseason baseball tournament the Jim Case Invitational.
Case’s Jacksonville State squads don’t win it every year, but they almost always seem to make it interesting. The Gamecocks have reached today’s final winner-take-all game for the championship. An automatic NCAA tournament bid is on the line. It marks the eighth time in 11 years that Case’s JSU team is one of the last two left standing.
If the Gamecocks can beat Tennessee Tech this afternoon, they’ll win their fourth league tournament title under Case. And they’ll do it in a way nobody in league history can match.
JSU lost in the opening round Wednesday night but then won five straight elimination games to make it to today’s final contest. No OVC team has won more than four elimination games in a single league tournament.
In 2012, regular-season champion Austin Peay got a bye through the first round, lost and then won four straight to take the tournament crown. Twice in the 1980s, when the OVC included only four teams in its postseason, teams lost an opener and won four straight for the championship — Western Kentucky in 1980 and Middle Tennessee in 1988.
To get this far, JSU had to win twice Saturday, which meant the Gamecocks have played six games in four days. It’s hard to come up with enough quality pitchers to make it through that many games, but JSU — supposedly out of rested arms — allowed runs in only two of 18 innings Saturday. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks’ bats produced runs in 10 of 18 innings.
Still, there is one more game left. Sorry, Tennessee Tech, you’re in the way of history.