It finally did off the bat of Michael Bishop.
The sophomore outfielder belted a two-run walk-off homer with two outs in the ninth to lift the Gamecocks to a 3-2 win over North Florida for their first win of the season. Suddenly, the skies were blue again for the guys in red.
“That was a huge hit to get the train rolling,” Bishop said. “Especially to get the first one and get the first one this way to get some momentum rolling.
“Everybody’s been kind of frustrated. We know we’re going to be good … and everybody was saying we’re going to be fine, the question was when. We’ve been waiting for the spark for four games — four games and eight innings — and hopefully that’s the spark that puts us on a big winning streak.”
The Gamecocks (1-4) were in desparate need of something good, but far from panic mode. Until Bishop came to the plate in the ninth, they were beset by bad luck and missed opportunities — not just Sunday, but the whole season. Up to Bishop’s game-winning blast, the Gamecocks were hitting .167 with runners on base and only .116 with runners in scoring position. They were 11 for 68 with runners on and 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position on their current four-game home stand.
The frustration continued Sunday as they managed only one run out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation (on a walk to Coty Blanchard), struck out 10 times, hit into four double plays (they turned three) and left five runners in scoring position.
Kyle Bluestein, who snapped a 1-for-11 start with three hits, started the rally with a one-out bloop single to center.
Bishop went to the plate with two outs hunting a fastball in hopes of tying or winning the game. He took the first pitch from UNF reliever Tyler Moore and thought he missed his chance, then lined the next one over the left-field fence.
JSU players poured out of the dugout, touching off a celebration in which the 6-foot-3 centerfielder said he never felt his feet touching the ground after jumping on the plate.
“That just lifts a load off, it really does,” Case said. “We’ve gone through these first games and just seemingly couldn’t get a base hit. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
“I guarantee that every person in that dugout is thinking good things are going to happen to us. (Closer) Todd Hornsby jokingly said, ‘Hey, win another one, we’ve got a streak going.’ But we needed that. We needed to win a game.”
Bishop hit 22 homers in high school, but Sunday’s shot was the first walk-off homer he can ever remember hitting. He beat Eastern Kentucky with a walk-off single last May, then hit his first collegiate homer the next day. His two JSU homers have come in 172 career at-bats.
Ironically, he bought a can of shaving cream on his way to the ballpark Friday in anticipation of pie-ing somebody’s walk-off hit but left it in his truck.
His ninth-inning shot might have won the game, but there were other situations along the way just as critical to the Gamecocks avoiding a series sweep. The Ospreys (4-3) scored in only two innings — getting only single runs each time — and freshman right-hander Travis Stout came on with two runners in scoring position in the seventh and put out the fire with two strikeouts.
“Sometimes that gets lost (in such a game), but that might have been the biggest pitches of the game,” Case said.
The win went to Hornsby, who pitched the final two innings and allowed just one hit.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.