JSU baseball: Reeves goes 5-for-5, helps Gamecocks complete sweep of UNA

·5 min read

Apr. 30—JACKSONVILLE — T.J. Reeves could feel it coming. He was due for a big game.

He delivered it on Sunday, going 5-for-5 at the plate, as Jacksonville State completed a three-game sweep of North Alabama with a 13-3 mercy-rule victory over the Lions.

"Honestly, the last couple games, I've been feeling like I was going to have one of these types of games," the senior center fielder from Birmingham said. "My swing has been feeling really good lately."

Reeves jump-started JSU's offense in the bottom of the first inning when he deposited the first pitch he saw over the fence in center field for a three-run home run. The Gamecocks added one run in the second, five in the third, one in the fourth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh.

JSU head coach Jim Case said Reeves' blast — his eighth of the season — made everyone else's job a little bit easier.

"T.J., what he did for us today was, when he hit the three-run homer, it just kind of freed everything up," Case said. "And so, from the standpoint of a starting pitcher, it kind of takes the pressure off a little bit. And then we just kept adding as we went, and so from a pitching standpoint, it certainly got a lot easier.

"But I thought offensively we did a lot of what we've been doing most of the year, which is really swing the bat well."

Reeves singled in the third inning, doubled in the fourth and singled again in the sixth. With the Gamecocks up 12-3 in the bottom of the seventh, he came to the plate with a chance to end the game.

North Alabama reliever Bryce Richter couldn't find the strike zone, loading the bases on back-to-back walks and a hit by pitch. Reeves took a patient approach, and it paid off when his sharp single to left plated Will Fincher, sending the fans home early.

"My approach was kind of to see a couple of pitches, because the couple batters before, he walked them on some wild pitches, basically," Reeves said. "The pitches weren't even close, so I was just kind of being a little bit patient, but if it was over the plate, you know, anywhere, I was going to try to swing at it.

"He ended up getting two strikes on me. I got to two strikes, and I was just like, you know, if he throws it over the plate just hit it somewhere hard. They had the infield in. Hopefully it gets through somewhere. I hit it hard and it got through."

Reeves scored four runs and drove in four Sunday, finishing the game a triple shy of the cycle. It was a vintage performance from Reeves, who was one of the hottest hitters in the country early in the season. He knew he was in for a big game even after his batting average dipped to a season low .318 after a 1-for-5 performance Friday.

"The last couple weeks, I hadn't been really at my best, I would say, swinging my best, I would say," Reeves said "Friday, I went 1-for-5, but I hit a couple balls hard, and my swing felt really great. So I just knew that if I could stay consistent and stay with my plan, it's going to work out, and today was the day that it did."

What to know

—Reeves wasn't the only Gamecock to have a big day at the plate. Derrick Jackson Jr. finished 2-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs. His double down the third-base line drove in three runs in JSU's five-run third inning. He doubled again in the sixth, driving in Reeves from first base. Brennen Norton finished 3-for-4 with one run and four RBIs. He followed up Jackson's double in the third with a two-run homer, his fourth of the season. He just missed another home run in the fourth when his line drive bounced off the wall in left center for an RBI double. Norton capped his day with an RBI single in the sixth.

—Javon Hernandez and Mason Maners each went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Hernandez stole a base.

—Carson Crowe went 1-for-2 with a solo home run in the second inning. It was Crowe's sixth home run of the season.

—Caleb Johnson finished 2-for-4.

—Jake Peppers got the start and picked up his third win of the season after firing five scoreless innings. He allowed six hits and two walks and struck out five. Tanner Jones, normally JSU's Saturday starter, relieved Peppers and gave up three earned runs in the top of the sixth inning before settling down in the seventh. He allowed four hits and one walk over two innings pitched.

Who said

—Reeves on Jackson and Norton: "DJ, I mean, he's been swinging the heck out of the bat the last, I don't know, since he's come back, since his injury. He's been unreal. Brennen, he's been unreal, too. He's had some bad luck. He's been hitting balls right at people, but today, it kind of worked out. He got a ball over the fence and then he hit one off the wall. You can't get much better than that."

—Case on Peppers: "I thought it was good for him to get the start on the weekend. That was good, and he did a good job. Certainly, five innings of nothing, he certainly did his part."

—Case on Jones: "He missed his start. We weren't going to stress him this weekend, but it wasn't anything where he needed to sit for the weekend. So, we made a decision that we were going to try to get him a couple of innings. He was coming out if the game continued, but that puts him in really good shape for next week. He didn't need to go this week without throwing at all."

Next up

—JSU (21-21, 14-7 ASUN) will face Troy on the road Tuesday at 6 p.m., before hosting Samford on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Assistant Sports Editor Jared Gravette: 256-235-3572. On Twitter: @Jared_Gravette.