After Saturday’s results, the Gamecocks (32-24) pulled down the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will play fifth-seeded Eastern Kentucky (20-32) in their first game, 3 p.m. Wednesday at The Ballpark at Jackson (Tenn.)
They went into the weekend with a chance to share the regular-season title and went into Saturday with a shot to be the No. 2 seed, but those hopes were dashed when Belmont and Austin Peay both won.
“We were disappointed, not from the standpoint of the seeding, but that we went into the final weekend with a chance to try to play for the championship and weren’t able to do it,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “Still, we’re very happy to be in the tournament and feel the ball is in our hand. We just don’t get that first-day advantage, but we can still accomplish the goals we have.”
Tennessee Tech (39-15) and Austin Peay (42-13) hold the first two seeds. No. 3 Belmont (37-18) and No. 6 Southeast Missouri (24-31) play the other Wednesday game.
“This is a tournament that could go in any direction,” Case said. “I feel that way more than any I’ve been to. It’s kind of wide open.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity and hopefully we play as good as we can because I think when we do, I think we’re right there. I don’t say we’re the best team in the league, but we’re right there when we play like we can.”
The Gamecocks are expected to start Casey Antley (6-4, 4.63) and Taylor Shields (8-2, 3.75) on the mound in their first two tournament games.
Center fielder and leadoff man Michael Bishop also is expected to be back in the lineup. Bishop, the team’s leading hitter (.354), missed both games of Friday’s doubleheader after fouling a ball off his ankle in Thursday’s opener.
“We need Michael in the lineup,” Case said. “He’s that guy who kind of makes us go. I think there’s some stability there. There’s some scare there for a leadoff guy. He hits a lot of doubles, a few home runs; he’s a good leadoff man.”
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.