JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville State softball team held off a late Kennesaw State charge on Tuesday, when the Gamecocks escaped University Field with a 7-6 win over Kennesaw State.
The Gamecocks (10-11) used five extra base hits to take a 7-4 lead into the seventh, only to watch the Owls (13-11) hit the final two of their five solo home runs to pull to within one. Freshman Hilary Phillips came on to strike out the only batter she faced to earn her first career save.
Junior Sallie Beth Burch went 2-for-3 with a home run, an RBI and two runs scored for the Gamecock offense, while senior Chrissy O'Neal added a double, an RBI and two runs scored on her 2-for-3 outing. Seniors Hillary Downs and Nikki Prier and sophomore Tess Echols doubled to assist the JSU offensive attack.
Junior Ashley Eliasson was able to earn the win in the circle for the Gamecocks after surrendering six runs, four earned, on nine hits in 6.2 innings. She gave up five homers to the Owls offense, all solo, but Phillips was able to close the door on KSU in the seventh to preserve the win.
Ashley Burkett belted two of the Owls' home runs in going 3-for-4 to lead KSU's nine-hit attack. Klair Wells, Sharon Swanson and Jenna Closner each homered to account for the rest of their long balls.
Abbey Meixel was tagged with the loss for Kennesaw State after giving up six runs on six hits in just over four innings of work. Amanda Burns recorded the final five outs for the Owls, allowing a run on two hits in the process.
Closner's homer was the first of the afternoon and came in the top of the second to put Kennesaw State on the board first. Jax State plated four runs in the home half of the third, an inning that saw O'Neal single in a run and Downs double one in. A throwing error by center fielder Jensen Hackett and a sac fly from sophomore Meredith Sellers rounded out the scoring for JSU and gave the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead after the third.
The Owls rallied to tie it in the fifth, thanks to back-to-back solo bombs from Wells and Burkett and a run-scoring double by Closner the knotted the score at 4-4.
The Gamecocks answered quickly, getting an RBI double from Prier and an RBI single from sophomore Kaycee Crow that pushed them back ahead, 6-4. Burch led off the home half of the sixth with a solo shot that just cleared the wall down the left field line, her second round tripper of the year and one that proved to be the game winner.
Burkett and Swanson homered in the seventh to cut the JSU lead to 7-6 and chase Eliasson, making way for Phillips to come on and finish it off.
The Gamecocks will be back in action on Wednesday, when they host Middle Tennessee in a doubleheader at University Field. The first game will begin at 3 p.m. and admission is free for all fans.