In the opener of a series that should have a huge bearing on who gets the first-round byes in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Belmont blanked Jacksonville State 3-0 on Friday at Rudy Abbott Field.
The loss dropped the Gamecocks (26-20, 17-5 OVC) into a second-place tie with Belmont (31-13, 17-5), one game and 19 percentage points behind league-idle Tennessee Tech.
“It makes tomorrow”s game huge to try to get back in a position to win the series,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “It”s been a while since we”ve lost the first one but does it change a lot for us, no. We”ve still got a great opportunity to win the series we come out and play well and do a little bit better job of taking advantage of some opportunities that present themselves.”
The Gamecocks, who haven”t lost an OVC series opener since March 22, out-hit Belmont and hit several balls hard. The difference was the Bruins made the plays in the field they turned three double plays and made their four hits count.
The Bruins broke a scoreless tie with two in the sixth off JSU starter Casey Antley, who held Belmont to one hit through the first five innings. A leadoff double and mishandled sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners. The runs scored on a safety squeeze and an RBI single.
“On a day like today, that 2-0 felt more like 4-0,” Case said.
Belmont starter Dan Ludwig (10-1) and two relievers scattered six hits. Adam Miller had two, and Coty Blanchard extended his hitting streak to a league-best 14 games with another last at-bat single.
“I take my hat off their guy,” Case said. “I thought he threw great. He didn”t give us a whole lot of good things to hit and we didn”t do a whole lot with him. We did have opportunities, but when we did he got really tough.”
The Gamecocks hit into double plays with runners in scoring position in the first and sixth inning, ran out of another potential run in the fourth and left two runners stranded in the ninth.
JSU will hand the ball to junior right-hander Taylor Shields (6-2, 3.53) today, looking to even the series. He”ll be opposed by senior lefty Chase Brookshire (3-1, 1.15). Team officials will monitor the weather throughout the day and make every effort get the game played.
“Common wisdom would say (losing Game One) probably puts a little more pressure on us, but to the guys in the dugout that”s not how we feel at all,” Miller said. “We know we”re still in charge of our own destiny. We know they got the better of us today but as far as panic, there”s none of