JACKSONVILLE — If you're looking for something good about Jacksonville State's 5-4 home loss to Tennessee Tech, check the starting pitcher and catcher.
Colin Casey, a junior from Jacksonville High, made three other career starts for his hometown Gamecocks, but all of those were mid-week games. Sunday was Casey's first as a weekend pitcher, as JSU was playing for the third time in three days to open the season. He worked 4⅔ innings, struck out five and allowed two runs, only one of which was earned.
"I thought his changeup was better than normal today," Case said. "His five strikeouts, he probably had four of them with the changeup. That's unusual. Usually, we're more of a fastball-breaking ball, with the changeup being the third pitch. But, the changeup was fantastic from the get-go, so we probably used it twice as much as we normally do."
Case's catcher was Alex Carignan, a redshirt junior, who's the backup to all-Ohio Valley Conference pick Alex Webb. Carignan got the start as Webb moved to designated hitter after two straight days behind the plate.
Carignan got a single and a walk, and defensively, he threw out two runners.
"He can really throw," Case said. "He did a great job defensively. It's hard to tell from where I am, but it looked like the balls that were close to being strikes were being called strikes. I think that's a lot to do with the catcher to make it look that way. It looked like the borderline calls, he was doing a good job of framing."
If you're looking for something not so good about Sunday's loss, that's there, too. Defensively, JSU made three errors to follow up two straight errorless games. Those errors led to two runs. Another run came home on a balk by reliever Jackson Tavel when he had two outs and an 0-2 count on the batter.
"Defense is something that we feel like is going to be a strong point for us, but we weren't very good today," Case said. "That was probably the biggest disappointment."
Also, JSU failed to capitalize on two golden chances to put up a big inning. In the third inning, JSU loaded the bases with no outs, but a double play ended the inning, resulting in no runs. The Gamecocks entered the bottom of the eighth trailing 4-3 but loaded the bases with no outs.
Isaac Alexander hit a fly to right field that Tech's Jason Hinchman lunged to catch, rather than letting it drop. He had been in center field but had been shifted over to right in a defensive move just that inning. He made the catch, and while Webb tagged up at third and scored on the play, if Hinchman had misjudged, everyone on base would've been running for days.
What to know
—JSU (1-2) will play at home Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Alabama. Sophomore pitcher Isaiah Magwood will start after throwing one-third of an inning in relief Friday against Southern Illinois. Case said he hopes Magwood can go four innings, but no matter how long he goes, the plan is to split up the innings among relievers.
—Tre Kirklin was 2-for-5 with, a double, a run and an RBI against Tech. Alexander finished 1-for-3 with the RBI.
—Third baseman Jaylen Williams went 2-for-3 with a walk. Through three games, he is 3-for-9 with four walks.
—Jake Peppers, a freshman from Geraldine High, worked 2⅓ innings in relief of Casey and didn't give up a run. Reid Fagerstom pitched and didn't get an out. Tavel and Trey Fortner each pitched an inning, with Fortner giving up the winning run in the top of the ninth.
—Case on needing to be ready to play big at the important moments, no matter when they come: "Sometimes the game is played in the first inning. Sometimes it's played in the third. Sometimes it's played in the last. Everybody will look at the end of the game and say, 'Well, they lost it there.' Yeah, but not necessarily. … Today, when the game had a chance to be played, we didn't do a great job of it."
—Case on the wind and how it might've affected JSU: "You're playing on a day when the wind is like it is, it's going to be hard to hit a lot of long balls, and I didn't think we did a great job of adjusting to that and create offense through other ways."
—After hosting Alabama on Tuesday at 4 p.m., Valparaiso will visit this weekend for one game Friday at 4 p.m. and a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m.