JACKSON — Third-seeded Jacksonville State rallied with a six-run bottom of the eighth, then held off a UTM comeback to beat No. 6 Skyhawks 9-8 in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Tournament at Pringles Park Wednesday afternoon.
The disappointing loss drops UTM (19-35) into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination event, where it was to take on Eastern Kentucky this morning at 11.
EKU, the tourney’s No. 5 seed, lost its first-round game to fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech, 6-5 on Wednesday.
UT Martin swept the three-game regular season series from the Colonels in Richmond in late April.
Wes Patterson, Trey Karlen and Chase Okey provided two hits apiece in Wednesday’s game for the Skyhawks, who clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to score in each of their last four innings of play.
Cody Terry drove in a pair of runs, Jordan Owen extended his hit streak to a career-best 12 games, and Cory Stooksbury also drove in a run for UTM.
In the bottom of the eighth, the first four Gamecocks reached on singles, followed by a fielder’s choice that tied the game at 5-5. An RBI single and three-run triple plus an error would follow as Jacksonville State took a 9-5 lead.
UT Martin did not hang its heads, however.
Drew Mason came in to pinch-hit and grinded out a seven-pitch walk. Karlen then was walked on four pitches, setting up Okey for a double down the first base line that brought in two runs.
Down 9-7 with two outs, Sorensen sent a hard fly ball into center field that the Gamecock centerfielder misjudged, resulting in the ball rolling all the way to the warning track. Okey scored on the play to make the score 9-8 with the tying run on second base. However, All-OVC reliever Todd Hornsby, who set a league record with 14 saves this season, settled down and picked up his third strikeout of the game to end the Skyhawk threat.
UT Martin starting pitcher Dan Tobik was solid, allowing three runs (two earned) in 52⁄3 innings. Reliever Alex Boshers was charged with the loss after allowing six runs in the final 21⁄3 frames.
After Tobik pitched around two base hits in the bottom of the first, Jacksonville State put up one run apiece in the second and third innings.
The Gamecocks produced a leadoff double in the fifth but Tobik settled down and retired the next three batters to escape the jam unscathed — giving UT Martin some momentum heading into the sixth inning.
Karlen led off the sixth with a double off the left field wall, and Okey followed that with a line drive single through the right side. One pitch later, Terry smoked a fly ball over the centerfielder’s head for a two-run triple to even the score at 2-2.
After JSU went ahead by a run in the bottom-half of the inning before Boshers stranded a runner on second base with two outs.
In the top of the seventh, Patterson singled to center to ignite a Skyhawk rally. Following a pitching change, Erik Larsen sacrificed Patterson to second. After a wild pitch moved Patterson to third, Cates called for the suicide squeeze play with Stooksbury at the plate on a 2-0 count. Stooksbury laid the bunt down to perfection, sneaking just past the pitcher to the Gamecock second baseman as Patterson easily strolled in to tie the game at 3 apiece.
Boshers held Jacksonville State scoreless in the seventh, allowing UT Martin to take its first lead of the game in the eighth.
The Gamecocks then brought on Hornsby. Karlen greeted Hornsby with a single up the middle, just beating out the throw from the second baseman. Okey then sacrificed Karlen to second base, and Karlen moved up to third base on a deep fly ball off the bat of Terry. After Phil Sorensen was intentionally walked, Owen came up with a huge two-out single through the left side to bring in Karlen and make the score 4-3 in UT Martin’s favor. Two pitches later, Patterson ripped a single up the middle to plate Sorensen and make the score 5-3.
Published in The Messenger 5.26.11