JACKSONVILLE — Sometimes, there’s nothing that deep to a baseball player’s choice of walk-up music. For Nash Adams, a couple of words in Hippie Sabotage’s “Devil Eyes” just spoke to his feeling about any opportunity to make something happen.
“I really like the band,” Jacksonville State’s redshirt freshman outfielder said. “I don’t know. I was listening to that song one time, and I heard it and be ‘golden.’”
Adams was golden Wednesday, crushing a two-out, pinch-hit grand slam in the 11th to lift JSU to a 9-5 victory over traditional rival Troy.
The walk-on player from Helena, who said he didn’t realize bases were loaded when he stepped in the batter’s box, blasted an 0-1 pitch from left-handed reliever Zack Moore into the trees behind the left-field fence.
Adams’ dramatic bomb marked JSU’s first game-ending grand slam since Jake Sharrock did it in the ninth inning against Murray State on April 10, 2010.
JSU’s third homer of the game plated Chase Robinson, Andrew Naismith and Taylor Craven, who reached base on two walks and a fielder’s choice.
JSU coach Jim Case had told Adams to loosen up then called him to the plate for freshman Carson Crowe, after Troy coach Mark Smartt summoned Moore to the mound for Will Carnley.
“I wasn’t going to hit Crowe against that left-hander,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “And Crowe’s done a nice job. He’s probably only had about six or seven at bats against lefties and probably has three hits, but I thought that Nash would have a better opportunity.
“Of course, all we’re looking for is a single in that situation.”
Adams took a first-pitch slider for a strike then decided to sit on the same pitch, if he saw it again. Moore came back with the same pitch, and Adams hit a no-doubter.
A .167 hitter coming into that at-bat, Adams got his fifth hit of the season and first since Feb. 24 against Jacksonville. He doubled his season RBI total in one swing.
“I started off hot and went through a cold streak,” he said. “I’ve just been working every day to get back in the swing of things really, and, sure enough, I don’t know. I just kind of blacked out and put a good swing on it.”
He found himself in the middle of a wild swarm of teammates when he crossed home plate Wednesday night.
“What a great thing for him to sit and watch 11 innings of baseball and then get called on and step up there and do that,” Case said. “So much of this game is confidence. That has to do a world of good for his confidence.
“I’m really hoping that will ignite him. That kid is athletic. He can run. He can throw. He has juice in his bat. He hasn’t had a whole bunch of great things happen for him this year, and that’s the kind of stuff, to me, that can turn somebody around.”
What to know
—Leadoff hitter Tre Kirklin hit JSU’s other two home runs Wednesday, solo shots in the first and third innings to give JSU a 1-0 lead then bring the Gamecocks within 3-2. They were Kirklin’s first two home runs of the season. His first home run marked JSU’s first time to lead off a game with a home run since Michael Bishop did it March 15, 2014.
—Adams’s clutch hit wasn’t the only one for JSU. Naismith’s double to left-center field in the eighth inning, on a 3-2 pitch after starting 3-0, scored Cole Frederick to bring JSU within 5-4. Frederick tied the game with a one-out single in the ninth, scoring Tanner Anderson, who came on to pinch run after Alex Webb reached on an error then took second base on a wild pitch.
—The Gamecocks also got clutch relief from right-hander Christian Edwards, their seventh pitcher of the day. He allowed one hit with three strikeouts and no walks while working the final two innings for the win. He struck out the side in the 10th and induced a key double-play ball for the first two outs of the 11th,
—Case, on the dramatic victory to build on an Ohio Valley Conference series victory over Eastern Illinois last weekend: “It’s got to help us. If you said, ‘Boy, now do you have this thing figured out?’ No. No we don’t. It was very obvious that we did some things tonight that weren’t good, but the one thing we did was we hung together, and we found a way to win it together. I think this team has a chance to be really good, but we’re not really good right now.”
—Case on Edwards’ relief work: “I thought he was really electric the first (extra) inning The guy that singled to left field (Chase Smartt), he had the best at bats of the night. I mean, just overall best at bats of the night, so I kept feeling like his at bats were forcing me to do things I didn’t really want to do. Christian’s fastball was so good, but he kept fouling it over the first-base side. Instead of just keeping pounding and pounding, I call a change up, and he lines it between short and third. I turned to the dugout and said, ‘That’s a bad pitch call on my part.’ Luckily for me, (Edwards) bailed me out and got a ground ball by the next guy (Sadler Goodwin), and we turned the double play.”
—JSU (8-10) plays a three-game home series against Big Ten Conference opponent Purdue. Friday’s first pitch is 6 p.m., with 1 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday.