The Gamecocks and Salukis hooked up in one of the craziest college baseball games imaginable at Rudy Abbott Field. There were big leads and blown leads, big innings and missed opportunities, and in the end SIU prevailed 17-16 in 11 innings that lasted 4 hours, 36 minutes.
In addition to the 33 runs, the teams combined for 37 hits and more than 60 base runners.
And they have two more games left.
“It was a roller coaster of a day,” JSU coach Jim Case said.
The Gamecocks (1-5) should be commended for just being in the game. Most teams that fall behind 12-1 in the third inning of a brisk day might just go through the motions, but the Gamecocks matched SIU’s big inning and ultimately took a lead into the ninth.
The Salukis (1-2) tied it on a passed ball in the ninth, and JSU had a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning. Both teams scored in the 10th before the Salukis went ahead for good when Nick Johnson singled home Jordan Sivertsen with one out in the 11th.
The Gamecocks, fresh off scoring 17 runs in their first win of the season Wednesday, had the tying or winning runs at third base in each of the final three innings but couldn’t get it home. The game ended with first-team preseason All-American Todd Cunningham taking a mighty cut at strike three.
“We gave ourselves a couple opportunities to win,” Case said. “To their credit and to their closer’s credit, he came in and pitched longer than what we normally would. He did a great job and got out of those innings and extended the game to where they did take the lead and held it.”
The Salukis appeared to break it open with a seven-run third inning, highlighted by Tyler Bullock’s grand slam, but the Gamecocks answered back with eight runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Gamecocks sent 13 batters to the plate in their rally, punctuated by consecutive doubles by Matt McLaughlin, Bert Smith and Blake Seguin that plated in five runs.
Smith had four hits and three RBIs in the game, while Seguin, Daniel Adamson and Andrew Edge had three hits apiece. Eight of the nine starters for both teams had at least one hit.
“I have to give them credit because they were just hammered at one time in that game and were probably very demoralized,” SIU coach Dan Callahan said. “And the way they came back and got after us was very impressive on their part. Their bench wasn’t really enthusiastic, then all of a sudden they gave themselves reason to be happy again.”
The Gamecocks were absolutely overjoyed after taking a 15-14 lead with five in the eighth, capped by Steven Leach’s two-run single after falling behind 0-2, then handed it over to closer Alex Jones to finish. But it was far from over.
The Salukis loaded the bases with two singles and a walk, then scored the tying run on a passed ball.
Jones, who struck out the side in order in his only inning Wednesday, got the first two outs of the tenth, then the Salukis sandwiched two JSU infield errors around a walk to take a 16-15 lead. The Gamecocks retied it on Leach’s RBI single, but he ended up stranded at third.
Jones walked two more in the 11th before giving up the go-ahead single to Johnson.
“You’ve just got to make people earn it and we did not do that,” Case said. “We just walked way too many people.”
Callahan was just happy to escape the day.
“Two things are huge about that,” he said. “No. 1, we won and, No. 2, the manner in which we did it. We gave away the lead and just kept coming back. Over the long haul we persevered. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but at the same time it was a win and we needed that.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 235-3577.