JACKSONVILLE — Isaac Alexander wasn't going to dodge the postgame bucket bath. Sooner or later, he was going to get soaked.
That's the price you pay for a game-winning hit for Jacksonville State in the bottom of the 11th inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Alexander singled off third baseman Raul Elguezabal's glove, driving home Cole Frederick to beat Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 4-3 on Sunday afternoon.
"I was just doing anything to get the bat on it," said Alexander, who was 0-for-9 against SIUE until that hit. "I was kind of out front of it, which was fine. I thought the third baseman was about to catch it. Once it got past him, I thought, 'It's good.'"
Alexander's teammates poured out of the dugout as they wanted to dump the contents of the water bucket on him, but Alexander took off running to the outfield. He made it all the way to left field before they gave up.
They got him later, however. After JSU coach Jim Case addressed the team, they surprised Alexander with the bucket.
"They soaked me," Alexander said with a half-smile after drying off and changing out of his uniform.
This marked the fourth straight game-winning hit for JSU in the bottom half of the last inning. After Alex Strachan beat Georgia with a single in the 11th, Alex Webb's grand slam beat SIUE on Friday and Nic Gaddis' solo shot did it Saturday.
Jacksonville State (30-21, 19-8 Ohio Valley Conference) needed every one of these wins against SIUE. JSU entered the series tied for first place in the OVC, and co-leader Austin Peay swept all three against Eastern Illinois to keep pace. Austin Peay and JSU will face off Thursday, Friday and Saturday to end the regular season and decide the OVC championship.
Case said his team is playing with an "expectation to win."
"I think we've all been part of things that when it starts to get tight, you start thinking, 'What are we going to do to blow it?' But I think our guys are thinking, 'What are we going to do to win it?'" Case said. "So, that's a big thing. It didn't start just this weekend. It started — and I don't know for sure — in maybe the last six weeks. In that time, we've been playing pretty good."
Jacksonville State found a way to win despite getting only three hits in 11 innings. Cole Frederick singled in the first inning but was stranded. JSU didn't get another hit until the fifth inning, trailing 3-0. Nash Adams crushed his fifth homer of the year to bring home himself and Andrew Naismith, who had walked. Frederick tied it in the eighth when his sacrifice fly scored Chase Robinson.
The next hit, however, was Alexander's. SIUE's Cole Milam struck out Tre Kirklin to start the inning. Then he walked Frederick, struck out Alex Webb and walked Nic Gaddis.
Alexander said he was looking for an off-speed pitch because SIUE had thrown him plenty during the series.
With the ball getting tipped by Elguezabal, left fielder Eric Giltz had little time to field it and try for Frederick. His throw home was off target, and Frederick scored.
Case said that even if the ball had gotten by Elguezabal cleanly, he was sending Frederick.
"In that situation, with two outs, I want to make them throw him out," Case said. "I want them to make a good throw and the catcher catch it and make the tag. There are times you don't want to make the other team throw you out, but there are times you do, and that's one of them."
What to know
—Dylan Hathcock started and threw three innings, giving up all three runs. The relief staff, however, gave up a combined three hits, four walks and no runs. Trey Fortner worked three innings, Jackson Tavel 2⅔ innings, Austin Brewster 1⅔ innings, and Michael Gilliland got the last two outs of the top of the 11th.
—Cole Frederick was 1-for-3 and extended his hitting streak to 11 games in a row.
—Gaddis finished 4-for-11 in the series but saw his seven-game hit streak end. He now has 37 walks, which leads the team.
—Alexander on all the wins in the last inning: "It's just fun playing with these guys because they don't give up. Sunday after we've won the series, it can be a mentally tough day, but everyone gets locked in. It's fun."
—Case on how the team has played: "I don't think we've peaked. I hope we peak next weekend. I really do. I don't think we've played our very best baseball yet, but I think we've been getting closer to it as we go."
—JSU is scheduled to host UAB on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Gamecocks' final home game.