JACKSON, Tenn. — Jacksonville State is within one win of an Ohio Valley Conference baseball tournament, and the Gamecocks have done it despite dealing with the pressure of elimination the whole way.
Third-seeded JSU lost its tournament opener Wednesday, then won one elimination game Thursday, two Friday and two more Saturday. The Gamecocks defeated OVC regular-season champion Southeast Missouri 6-2 in the elimination bracket final Saturday, then scored a 10-7 win over second-seeded Tennessee Tech, which hadn’t dropped a game in the tournament.
That sets up a final winner-take-all game between JSU (35-25) and Tennessee Tech (40-18) at noon today. These two teams tied for second place in the regular season, but Tech got the No. 2 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker.
Zachary Fowler (6-7) is set to start on the mound for JSU, although everybody is available out of the bullpen. Fowler pitched 5 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s loss to Eastern Illinois, allowing only one unearned run.
This marks the eighth time in the last 11 years the Gamecocks are one of the last two teams left in the OVC tournament. They won the title in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
In Saturday’s opener against Southeast Missouri, JSU pitchers Graham Officer, Bradley Raulston and Travis Stout limited the OVC’s best hitting team to just five hits.
Officer, a sophomore, made his first start of the season after coming out of the bullpen 25 times this year for JSU. He tossed five innings and allowed just four hits and two runs. Raulston (1-0) allowed just one hit in two innings of relief to earn the win, while Travis Stout recorded the final six outs to earn a save.
Southeast entered the game leading the Ohio Valley Conference with a .308 batting average and scoring an average of almost 10 runs per conference game. The Redhawks finished the game just 5-for-31 for a .161 average.
The Redhawks came out and scored two quick runs in the first inning off of Officer after Cole Bieser reached on a one-out single and Matt Tellor followed with a single to right field to put runners on the corner. Derek Gibson then had a RBI single down the right field line to score Bieser and Tellor laster scored on a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 SEMO lead.
The Gamecocks battled back to tie the game in the fourth inning after Griff Gordon reached on a walk and Paschal Petrongolo followed with a base hit to left field. Gordon scored on a sacrifice fly and Petrongolo later scored on an Andrew Bishop sacrifice fly to tie the game 2-2.
JSU took the lead in the sixth inning after Petrongolo led off with a double and later came in to score on Tyler Gamble's grounder down the left field line for a 3-2 advantage.
The Gamecocks added a run in the seventh inning after Michael Bishop scored on a SEMO failed picked off attempt to first to push the lead to 4-2. JSU then added two more insurance runs in the eighth inning on Gavin Golsan's RBI double and Bishop's sacrifice fly for the final margin.
For the second straight day, every player in the Gamecock lineup recorded a hit, as Eddie Mora-Loera and Petrongolo each had two hits to lead the Gamecocks' 11-hit attack
In the second game, Michael Bishop had three hits, including a solo home run, to lead Jacksonville State.
The Gamecocks got on the board in the first inning after Bishop led off the game with a double and scored on Gordon's single up the middle for the early 1-0 lead.
JSU then scored three more runs in the third inning as Mora-Loera and Andrew Bishop each drove in a run, while Ryan Sebra scored on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 4-0.
Jacksonville State added a run in the top of the fifth inning to after Sebra led off with a double and later scored on Gamble's infield single as the Gamecocks built a 5-0 lead.
Pitching on just two days rest, JSU starter Taylor Shields took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, before the Tennessee Tech bats got going in the fifth inning.
The Golden Eagles hit three two-run home runs, one each by Tyler Brazelton, Zach Stephens and Dylan Bosheers, while Jake Rowland scored on a sacrifice fly as Tech took a 7-6 lead.
The Gamecocks came right back in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game after Petrongolo had a RBI single through the right side to score Michael Bishop and tie the game 7-7.
JSU took the lead for good in the seventh after Gamble led off with a single and later scored on Golsan's infield grounder to give JSU the lead, before Bishop slugged his third home run of the season with a solo shot over the left field wall for a 9-7 lead.
The Gamecocks added an insurance run in the ninth after Andrew Bishop led off with a double and scored on Cal Lambert's single through the left side for the final margin.
Eight of the nine starters had a hit for the Gamecocks, led by three by Michael Bishop, while Andrew Bishop, Mora-Loera, Gordon, Sebra, and Gamble each had two hits.
Sebra (2-0) went 2 2/3 innings in relief and allowed just two hits to earn the win on the mound, while Travis Stout recorded the final four outs to pick up his second save of the day and 14th of the year.
Video of JSU outfielder Gavin Golsan's diving catch against Tennessee Tech: