JACKSONVILLE — It was a loss, but, hey, for the first time in 346 days, Jacksonville State got to play a baseball game.
"We were just ready to get out here," Jacksonville State outfielder Carson Crowe said. "It's been almost a year since we've gotten to play together. Coming here in a baseball atmosphere again with fans and another team out here, we were just all excited and ready to get after it."
JSU fell 8-7 to Southern Illinois in the season opener for both schools. The Gamecocks trailed 8-2 at one point but couldn't add a run in the eighth or ninth innings.
JSU was scheduled to play a three-game set at Baylor this weekend, but the winter storm that hit Texas forced the series to be canceled. Gamecocks baseball coach Jim Case and his staff put together a four-team round-robin, starting with Friday's game.
Saturday, Tennessee Tech will face Southern Illinois at 11 a.m., followed by Jacksonville State vs. Alabama State at about 2:30 p.m, and Alabama State vs. Tennessee Tech at about 6.
On Sunday, Alabama State will play Southern Illinois at 10 a.m., followed by JSU vs. Tennessee Tech at about 1:30 p.m. Tickets will be $10 a day, and the box office will open one hour before the start of each day.
In Friday's game, SIU broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the fourth — all with two outs. SIU scored four more in the seventh inning, which started with JSU's Colton Lewis retiring the first two batters.
Down 8-2, the Gamecocks scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh. Jaylen Williams walked to score a run, Derrick Jackson Jr. doubled home two runs, Crowe had a sacrifice fly, and Tanner Snow singled home a run.
"Any time you line up and lose, we're disappointed, especially the first game of the year with the excitement of opening up," Case said. "I think there were bright spots. The bright spot is that when we fell behind, there was never any kind of quit. We felt like we were going to win. We didn't, but that's how you end up coming back in games — you feel like you're going to win."
What to know
—Williams, a senior third baseman who transferred from Jackson State, was 1-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs. He batted fifth in the order. He was a first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference player at Jackson State.
—Cole Frederick, hitting second, was 2-for-3 with two walks. Crowe hit a solo home run. Jackson had the two-run double, while Tre Kirklin, Alex Strachan and Snow each singled.
—Case used six pitchers, including Christian Edwards (3⅔ innings, four runs), Isaiah Magwood (one-third, no runs), Lewis (2⅔ innings, four runs), Camden Lovrich (one inning, no runs), Jackson Tavel (two-thirds, no runs) and Trey Fortner (two-thirds, no runs). In the ninth, SIU had runners on second and third with one out, and Fortner struck out two straight to end the threat.
—Case said JSU got some standout defensive plays by Isaac Alexander at shortstop and Kirklin in center field. Case added that catcher Alex Webb threw the ball well.
—Crowe on knowing his home run was gone when he hit it: "Kind of a heat of the moment thing. Trying to get everybody fired up and the team going."
—Case on the pitching staff: "There were bright spots. The biggest thing was we had trouble closing innings out. All of their runs were scored with two outs. We've just got to be better at closing innings. On the other hand, I'd give them credit because they did some things with two outs."
—JSU will host Alabama State Saturday at 2:30 p.m.