JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville State softball team rallied from a two-run deficit twice on Wednesday to claim an 8-5 Ohio Valley Conference win over Tennessee Tech at University Field.
In the rubber game of the season series that started with a doubleheader split on March 30 in Cookeville, Tenn., the Gamecocks (20-16, 7-6 OVC) used 13 hits and a pair of key home runs to overcome a season high four errors and hand the Golden Eagles (16-24, 5-9 OVC) their ninth loss in the last 13 games. Senior Nikki Prier went 3-for-4 with two RBI and was a triple shy of the cycle, while junior Sallie Beth Burch's three RBI afternoon was highlighted by a go-ahead two-run home run in the fifth.
The two teams that have combined to win the last five OVC regular season titles didn't disappoint in this one. TTU held a two-run lead in the first and again in the third, only to watch the Gamecocks tie it both times before eventually taking the lead for good on Burch's homer. The blast was the fourth of the season and lifted the Moulton, Ala., native's batting average in league play to .472.
Senior Chrissy O'Neal also had a productive afternoon at the plate for the Gamecocks, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored. Senior Hillary Downs drove in two runs in going 2-for-4.
Chanelle Spalding and Whitney Cummings each recorded two hits for the Tennessee Tech offense, with Cummings and Kaleigh Gates supplying the power with a home run apiece.
The two teams exchanged long balls in the first, when a Gates homer in the top of the inning gave the Golden Eagles a 2-0 lead and a two-run shot from Prier in the home half tied the score at 2-2. Gates' homer, a line drive that curled around the left field foul pole, was her seventh of the season and her third against JSU.
Prier took a 1-1 pitch from Thomas that was on the outside part of the plate and drove it over the wall in left center, scoring O'Neal after she led off the game with a single to left.
TTU quickly reclaimed the lead in the top of the second, when catcher Kaycee Crow's throw to first on Melody Christian's sac bunt attempt sailed into the corner in right field, allowing Jordan Leff to score from first. Two more Gamecock throwing errors in the third, one from third baseman Amanda Crow and another from pitcher Ashley Eliasson allowed Samantha Everett to score and put the Golden Eagles up 4-2.
The Gamecocks loaded the bases with no outs in the third but only pushed one across on an RBI ground out to second by Burch. They were able to even the score in the fourth on an O'Neal sac fly to right that drove in Kaycee Crow from third.
JSU claimed its first lead of the game in the fifth, when Burch followed Prier's leadoff double with a two-run blast to left center. The Moulton, Ala., native's fourth homer of the year gave the Gamecocks a 6-4 lead and chased reliever Claudia Harke from the circle. A bases loaded single from Downs scored two more in the sixth to send the game into the final inning with JSU up 8-4.
Cummings led off the seventh with a solo homer for the Golden Eagles to cut the JSU lead to three, but Eliasson (14-7) settled down and got out of the inning without any further damage. The Vallejo, Calif., native went the distance to win her ninth consecutive decision, allowing five runs, three earned, on eight hits along the way. She walked three and struck out five in her 15th complete game of the season, one that forced her to throw 156 pitches to put in the books.
Harke (2-5) recorded just two outs in the game, but the two runs she allowed on three hits cost her the decision in the circle. Holly Thomas pitched the first 3.1 frames and surrendered four runs on seven hits, while Maddie Schmissrauter gave up two runs on three hits over the final two innings of the game.
The Gamecocks will be home this weekend for a three-game OVC series against Eastern Kentucky. The two will begin the set on Saturday with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. CT before wrapping it up on Sunday with a 1 p.m. single game. Admission is free to all JSU home games at University Field.