TUSCALOOSA – A five-run third inning by Alabama proved costly on Wednesday afternoon, when the Jacksonville State baseball team dropped an 9-5 non-conference matchup to the Crimson Tide at The Joe.
Junior Erik Underwood had two of Jax State's seven hits in four at bats, while five players scattered the other five for the Gamecocks (15-6). Freshman Coty Blanchard struggled at the plate in an 0-for-4 game but drew a leadoff walk in the ninth inning to extend his streak of consecutive games to reach base to 19.
The Crimson Tide (15-7) turned to a 3-for-5 day from Josh Rosencrans that saw him belt a home run and drive in four. Jared Reaves and Austen Smith pitched in two hits apiece.
The Gamecocks dented the scoreboard first in the top of the first, when a Jake Sharrock double and a Sam Eberle single set up Ben Waldrip's first sacrifice fly of the season. His routine fly ball to center drove in Sharrock from third and gave the Gamecocks an early 1-0 lead.
The Crimson Tide had a pair of baserunners in each of the first two innings but didn't break through until the third, when they did so in a big way. They tied it up on an error by catcher Stephen Bartlett and grabbed a 3-1 lead on a two-run single off of Rosecrans' bat. Jon Kelton capped the five-run inning with a two-run double that gave Alabama a four-run lead.
Rosecrans stretched that lead to 6-1 in the fifth with a leadoff home run to left and then a pair of two-out RBI singles from Smith and Rosecrans stretched the lead to 8-1 in the sixth.
JSU got a few back in the top of the seventh, a frame that saw nine men come to the plate. Blake Seguin got the scoring started with an RBI double down the left field line and eventually scored on a bases-loaded, two-out walk drawn by Sharrock. Also in the inning, former Gamecock Josh Sanders booted a ground ball off of the bat of Bartlett that allowed Erik Underwood to score and cut the deficit to 8-4.
The Gamecocks loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, forcing the Tide to go to the bullpen and bring in Brett Whitaker. The UA senior minimalized the damage, sandwiching an RBI ground out from Scott Underwood in between strikeouts of Sequin and pinch hitter Jay Davis to hold on to an 8-5 lead.
Bama would get one more in the home half of the eighth on a two-out error by Coty Blanchard, his second fielding miscue of the day, to stretch the lead to four heading into the ninth.
Both starting pitchers in the game were natives of Oxford, Ala., with freshman Taylor Sparks (0-1) earning the nod for the Gamecocks. He was charged with the loss after allowing four runs, three earned, on six hits in 2.1 innings of work. Alabama's Oxford native, Trey Pilkington, earned his first win of the season after holding the Gamecocks to four runs, three earned, on six hits in 6.1 innings. Whitaker tossed the final two innings to earn his second save of the season.
The Gamecocks will return home this weekend to open Ohio Valley Conference play with a three-game series at Rudy Abbott Field against UT Martin. The set will begin Saturday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader and will conclude on Sunday with a single game at 1 p.m.