042419_JSU_Alabama bb_013 tp.jpg

Jacksonville State head coach Jim Case makes a pitching change and brings in Corley Woods. The Gamecocks played host to the Alabama Crimson Tide Wednesday night at Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium on the JSU campus. (Photo by Trent Penny)

Jim Case tried to tell us.

Even as the latest of his 18 Jacksonville State baseball teams got off to that gnarly 5-8 start, he knew it was all about the finish.

“We’ve just got to get it going a little bit,” Case said said on a chilly, early March day, after a 5-3 loss to Samford. “You don’t have to be a genius to look at the stat sheet and see that we’re scuffling, but what do you do when you scuffle?

“You work hard and stay positive, and you believe that it’s going to turn around. That’s what I think is going to happen with this team. When it does, I think it’s just going to break loose, and big hits are really going to start to come.”

It’s late May. Temperatures will reach the 90s this week, according to forecasts, and Case proved to be quite the forecaster.

He and the Gamecocks are Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champions again, and he’s OVC coach of the year for the third time.

As with all coach-of-the-year awards, the success behind it wasn’t all coaching. He also had the OVC pitcher of the year in Garrett Farmer, one of three first-team All-OVC picks.

But the coach whose career tracks like a well-run marathon knew to treat the molding of this JSU team like one. He believed he had a good team. He challenged that team with a tough early schedule and kept the Gamecocks’ eyes on the end of the season, not the beginning.

They’re 29-13 since March 5, with 22 of those victories coming in OVC play.

After two years of playing at homes away from home as JSU built the new stadium that bears Case’s name, a tough schedule as the team’s toughest challenge must’ve felt nice. A seventh OVC title and his first coach-of-the-year award in 11 years must feel nice, as well.

Well done, coach.

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.