The Gamecocks (11-10, 5-1 OVC) scored three runs in the eighth inning after falling behind 6-4 in the top of the inning. The two go-ahead runs scored on a dropped fly ball off the bat of Paschal Petrongolo. SIUE (5-10, 3-3) broke a 4-4 tie on two-run homer by Devin Caldwell.
The Gamecocks hadn’t been over .500 since the final game of the 2011 season. They were 28-30 last season and never closer than within one game of a .500 record.
The series sweep was their first in Ohio Valley Conference play since the final regular-season series of that season against Morehead State. They have now won five straight OVC league games.
“The over .500 thing is not as big to me as sweeping the series,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “Last year we got off to a rough start and we fought the whole year trying to get back to .500. It’s nice that we are over .500, but the big story of the weekend is that we were able to sweep.”
After two brilliant pitching performances the first two games of the series, the Gamecocks had to come back twice to win the getaway game at Rudy Abbott Field. They fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and trailed 3-1 in the third, but took a 4-3 lead in the fifth on Michael Bishop’s two-run homer.
They opened the decisive home eighth with three consecutive singles and pushed in a run on a bases-loaded walk before Petrongolo’s fly was misplayed by left-fielder Matt Seevers, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement.
“I think that just shows the character of the team and the trust we have in each other,” Miller said of the rally. “Before the eighth inning I walked up to Mike Bishop and told him you get on, I’ll get you over and Griff (Gordon) will hit you in. Griff tried to get him in but third base kind of got in the way.
“It just comes down to trust. We all trust each other and we know that if one of us doesn’t get the job done the guy right behind us is going to get it done for us.”
Bishop, Miller and Gordon – the first three hitters in JSU’s lineup – had two hits apiece. Gamecocks closer Travis Stout, who entered in the eighth, finished off the game for his first win of the season. Stout earned a win and a save in his two appearances this weekend.
For Miller, a senior outfielder, it marked the first time in his JSU career he had a winning record during the season.
“As far as the .500 record goes, I don’t think it means as much as we’re now 5-1 in the league and we just swept the team who was the conference leader,” he said. “It means a little bit to be above .500, but I think if you ask anybody on the team they’re more than happy to be 5-1 in the league. I think at this point in the season that’s what matters.”
After the game, the JSU players held down Miller in front of the dugout and drenched him with the water bucket to celebrate his birthday. Relief pitcher Graham Officer got the same treatment.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.