JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State has won 17 of 18 innings in a weekend series with Big Ten Conference opponent Purdue. That one bad inning, though.
Purdue sent 14 batters to the plate in its nine-run fifth and beat JSU 9-5 in Saturday’s second game.
The Boilermakers pounded out six hits, including Nick Evarts’ three-run triple, but got five runners on without a hit.
“There’s going to be innings where bad things happen, and that’s part of baseball,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “A ball that’s not hit well rolls through. A ball that’s hit off the end of the bat bloops over someone’s head and falls for a double. … There’s going to be errors and miscues.
“When that happens, and we talk about this all of the time, we have to have damage control. What happened today, we couldn’t find a way to stop it.”
JSU’s best chance came two runs into it. With one out and Evan Albrecht on first base, following his RBI single, JSU starter Trey Fortner fielded a Skyler Hunter grounder. Shortstop Isaac Alexander bobbled Fortner’s throw with a chance for a double play.
From there, Purdue benefitted from two hit batsmen and two walks and took advantage with timely hits.
“That was the biggest factor in the game,” Case said. “If they’re standing up there and they’re banging balls all over the field, and we just can’t get them out, that’s hard. What are you going to do?
“When you’re helping them, that’s hard to swallow. Hopefully, we learned something from that.”
Following the error, Cole McKenzie singled. Fortner (1-3) then hit Owen Jansen and walked Zac Fascia, and Case called Michael Gilliland out of the pen.
From that point on, Gilliland, Tyler Wilburn and Brett Walton combined to five up one earned run in 4⅔ combined innings.
“With this game, anything can snowball, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” JSU catcher Alex Webb said. “I feel like, being this early in the season, we’ve got to find a way to put a stop to those big innings and give us a chance to put a plug in it and get back in the dugout and catch back up.”
What to know
—While Purdue’s nine-run fifth proved decisive, Webb topped the list of positives for JSU. His two-run double led the way in JSU’s three-run eighth inning. He finished the day 1-for-4 with a run and three RBIs, the other coming on a first-inning grounder to score Tre Kirklin from first base.
—Kirklin, the leadoff hitter, went 1-for-2 with a run and walk, making him 8-for-19 (.421) with eight runs and two RBIs in his past six games.
—JSU continues to get production from its pinch-hitters. Grant Atkins hit a run-scoring double in the ninth Saturday. Tanner Anderson doubled and scored on Webb’s double in the eighth. Nash Adams, whose pinch-hit grand slam in the 11th inning ended JSU’s 9-5 victory over Troy on Wednesday, also appears to have broken out of a .167 funk. He started in left field Saturday, going 2-for-4 with a triple and double and scoring on Atkins’ double.
—Case on pinch-hit successes: “Sometimes, those opportunities seem few and far between, so, when a guy gets an opportunity and steps off the bench and gets it done, you celebrate that. It’s not easy. It’s a lot easier to play every day than it is to hit every now and then. Those guys work really hard, and I felt like they deserve an opportunity to have an at bat or two, and they have a chance to show what they can do.”
—Webb, on JSU’s finish to the game after Purdue’s big inning. “It was good to see that we didn’t just lay down. We had runners on. Pitchers that came in, they threw well. They got their chance and threw well, threw a lot of strikes. Certainly, you’d like to see the bats wake up and not fall into a hole. … We found our groove a little bit in the eighth, and we can build off of it coming into tomorrow.”
—JSU (9-11) plays the final game of a three-game home series against Big Ten Conference opponent Purdue (4-13) today. First pitch at 1 p.m.