Apr. 25—JACKSONVILLE — Talk about delivering in a pinch.
Jacksonville State freshman Derrick Jackson did just that Saturday night as the Gamecocks salvaged a doubleheader split with Morehead State at Jim Case Stadium.
Jackson's pinch-hit, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning opened the floodgates for JSU's offense, and the Gamecocks went on to win the second game of a doubleheader 9-5 after dropping the opener 3-0.
"That's a pretty big hit by a freshman, isn't it?" head coach Jim Case said.
JSU (19-19, 9-8 OVC) entered the three-game weekend series against league-leading Morehead (19-15, 9-5 OVC) in a three-way tie for third place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. The Gamecocks sit in fourth place with their Game 2 victory. That's important considering the fact that only four teams will make the conference tournament this season.
For a time Saturday, it looked like the Gamecocks might relinquish a tourney spot.
They had opportunities late in the opener, loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and ninth innings. Both times, they came away with nothing.
They faced a similar situation in Game 2. Staring down a 5-2 deficit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning, Case sent Jackson to the plate to pinch hit for Mason Maners. The freshman ripped a single up the middle, scoring Alex Strachan and Alex Carignan and cutting the deficit to 5-4.
"Every time we've given him an opportunity in the last two weeks it seems like he's come through," Case said. "He's been really, really good. He can swing the bat. There's no doubting that."
After his clutch hit, Jackson headed to the bench in favor of pinch runner Tanner Anderson. After his teammates kept the rally going, Jackson couldn't contain his excitement.
"I started losing my voice for a little bit," he said.
Isaac Alexander scored to tie the game on Alex Webb's RBI single. Jaylyn Williams followed with a single that Morehead State shortstop Cole Becker threw away, allowing Anderson and Webb to score to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the day at 7-5. Nash Adams then doubled home Williams for an 8-5 lead.
"We have such a good lineup, and I just love watching our lineup click together," Jackson said.
Jackson also had a pinch-hit single in Game 1. He finished the day 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
Not bad for a guy who didn't start either game.
"We can't be any happier to see him have success, and it's big for a young guy like that to come in and help out in a big situation," said Webb.
What to know
—Tre Kirklin stole his 14th base of the season in the first inning of Game 1, but came up favoring his shoulder after a head-first slide into second base. The senior stayed in the game, but fell to his knees in obvious pain after the first swing of his next at-bat. He left the game and did not return.
—Despite taking the loss in Game 1, Christian Edwards turned in another stellar performance. Morehead's Jackson Feltner, who finished the day with three home runs, hit his first off of Edwards to lead off the seventh inning. That was the only run Edwards allowed. He struck out 11 while allowing eight hits and one walk over seven innings. For the second straight weekend, he received no run support after firing eight shutout innings in a 1-0 loss to Eastern Kentucky last week.
—Carson Crowe led the Gamecocks at the plate in Game 1, finishing 2-for-4 with a double. In Game 2, Webb pounded out three hits, including a double and a home run, his sixth of the season. He finished with two runs and two RBIs. Adams also finished with a double and a home run, his second of the season, and two RBIs. Williams finished 2-for-5 with a triple.
—Case on earning a split in the doubleheader: "I think it was huge, I mean, I really do. The big thing you got to do at home is try to do everything you can to win two out of three. Obviously, if we'd lost that one, we wouldn't have had the opportunity tomorrow. So I think this game was a big game, and tomorrow is a big game as well."
—Webb on Edwards: "Christian, you know, it's tough. He's been lights out for us all year. We just didn't give him any run support. It's tough on that end, but you know what, he did his job and kept us in the game the entire time."
—The final game of the series is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Jim Case Stadium.
Assistant Sports Editor Jared Gravette: 256-235-3572. On Twitter: @Jared_Gravette.