JSU's Hornsby sets OVC saves record in win over Auburn
by Al Muskewitz
May 16, 2012 | 4667 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — It was an historic night for Jacksonville State closer Todd Hornsby, but he approached it like it was any other game.

Maybe that’s what has made him the premier stopper he has become.

Hornsby set the Ohio Valley Conference career saves record Tuesday night when he pitched out of a self-induced bases-loaded jam in the ninth to preserve the Gamecocks’ 8-7 win over Auburn that keeps alive their hopes for a .500 regular season.

It was save No. 32 in the senior right-hander’s three-year JSU career — and 12th this season — breaking the all-time OVC record he tied Sunday and shared with Eastern Kentucky’s Joe Witten (1995-98). He set the single-season saves record last season.

“It’s just another game,” Hornsby said when asked for some historical perspective. “My job is to come in and seal the win, so if I do that we’re obviously going to have a lot wins. It’s nice to have (32 saves), that just means we’ve won 32 games while I’m here.

“I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel good about it — I’m proud of myself — but my job is to come in and just close the door and that’s what I’ve tried to do every time I go out there.”

While Hornsby downplayed the significance of his accomplishment, the people around him didn’t. The moment shortstop Andrew Bishop flipped to second baseman Kyle Stone for the final out, the JSU players made a beeline from the dugout for the mound.

Gamecocks coach Jim Case made it a point to announce the milestone in his post-game meeting and the news was met by a healthy ovation.

“Todd has so much respect from his teammates,” Case said. “In this game it wasn’t just Todd — there were a lot of people who did great things — but after all that shakes out, in the very end, it was his night.

“I think every person in there … was so happy for him to be able to reach that. I’m not saying he’s an individual guy, because he’s not, but it’s still nice to break a record.”

Hornsby entered the game to start the eighth after Auburn (29-24) scored four in the seventh to draw within 8-7.

And it started out as if it was going to be one his easiest saves ever. He put down the Tigers on five pitches his first inning and got the first two outs easily in the ninth.

Then the Tigers loaded the bases with the top of their lineup on two walks and a sharp single to right. That brought cleanup hitter Justin Bryant to the plate. Hornsby got ahead 0-2 and then induced Bryant to ground to short.

“Coach Case is getting old, I’ve got to give him some excitement; nah, I’m just kidding,” Hornsby said. “They’re a good team. They’re not going to go down just 1-2-3. They were fighting. They were clawing. I’m clawing. One of us is going to win. Tonight, I was on top.”

Counting Tuesday, Hornsby has given up only three earned runs in his last 11 appearances (20 innings). He is now 3-3 with 12 saves and a 2.85 ERA this season; for his JSU career, he is 12-8 with 32 saves and a 3.39 ERA. He has eight wins and 27 saves the last two years.

When pushed, he finally admitted there was something special about the timing of the record-setting save.

“It’s nice to beat Auburn,” he said. “I’ve grown up an Alabama fan.”

The Tigers opened the scoring on Ryan Tella’s two-run homer in the first. The Gamecocks (24-27) tied it 2-2 on back-to-back homers by Ben Waldrip (his 16th) and Kyle Bluestein leading off the fourth and before the inning was over tacked on two more to go ahead 4-2. They added two more in the fifth and two in the seventh to lead 8-3.

Waldrip and Erik Underwood both had three hits in the game. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.

“That was huge, that guy (Auburn starter Cory Luckie) was cruising up until then,” Waldrip said of the back-to-back homers. “That kind of got us sparked.

“Two-one is big, but when you can tie it up 2-2 that early in the game and not only take the pitcher off the hook that early and give him some more confidence, but get all the other hitters rolling. After that … we were clicking on all cylinders.”

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.

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