Jacksonville State dropped a 4-1 non-conference road game at UAB Wednesday night, and if it had delivered in a few clutch situations, the outcome might have been different.
The Gamecocks (22-25) left the bases loaded in back-to-back middle innings when they were behind and ran out of another run early in the game. They stranded 10 runners total.
“It was a game where we didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities, but we certainly did have opportunity and when they came along, we didn’t do a very good job of executing,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “It’s a game that could go either way, but we never took advantage of any opportunity.”
JSU loaded the bases in the fifth with one out with a single and two walks, but the Blazers (27-23) survived by getting a strikeout and an infield grounder.
The Gamecocks were setting up for a potentially big inning in the sixth. They pushed across their only run of the game on Coty Blanchard’s fielder’s choice with runners at the corners, had runners at second and third with one out and eventually loaded the bases with two outs, then struck out to end the inning.
They were 1-for-13 with runners on base in the game, 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-3 with the bases loaded. Team officials would not provide season-long situational statistics after the game.
“Early in the year we had some real problems in those situations, but we’ve been much better and in the league we have been really good,” Case said. “The problem is we haven’t done that outside the league, and we’ve been in a number of these (type) games. A guy shoots one in the gap, it’s a whole different ballgame, but we haven’t been able to do that.
“Sometimes I think it can be fear … but I encourage them to play without fear. I just don’t think there’s a place for that for people to be successful in this sport and be fearful. Another way to put it is they’re trying too hard. I’m 100 percent convinced it’s not they’re not trying, they’re trying too hard. It’s like we’re trying to do too much sometimes.”
These midweek games provide an opportunity for the Gamecocks to find an extra arm for their postseason run. They used four pitchers Wednesday and even though Casey Antley got off to a rough start, Case said all four “showed something that was encouraging.”
The Blazers (27-23) used two hits, a walk and two wild pitches to score two in the first and added another run in the third. Patrick Palmeiro’s leadoff homer in the sixth made it 4-1. Robby Lilly, who hasn’t had many chances to pitch this season, was the most effective, throwing two perfect innings to finish the game.
“I thought we challenged the strike zone pretty good,” Case said. “If we do that with our best stuff we’ve got a chance to be pretty successful, and I thought those guys did tonight.”
UAB used seven pitchers – the most in a win this year — with starter David Hayes, facing the Gamecocks for the third time this season, getting the win.
Chase Davis had two hits and scored twice for the Blazers. The freshman had only one hit coming into the game and, usually a pinch-runner and reliever, drew a rare start because many of the Blazers’ regular outfielders were involved with finals.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.