The Jacksonville State baseball team tied the weekend series with the Dolphins of Jacksonville, Florida, Saturday thanks to a huge night offensively. The Gamecocks crossed home plate 13 times in their 13-8 home victory.
Jax State fell to the Dolphins on Friday by a score of 4-2. Two home runs by the Gamecocks were huge momentum swings in game two, even though the Dolphins managed to hit one deep ball.
“Offensively we could talk for thirty minutes and have a hard time covering all the good things that we did,” Jax State head coach Jim Case said. “You talk about when the other team scores, you got to find a way to at least send a run up there to keep the momentum. Four innings in a row, third through the sixth, they scored in three of them, we scored the exact same amount.
“We were scuffling a little bit, we were having a hard time shutting them down. Offensively we did some things that really were fantastic.”
The Dolphins scored the first run of the night in the top of the first inning, but the Gamecocks were able to respond with a run of their own to knot the game at 1-1 after the first.
The Dolphins added another run in the top of the second to gain a slight 2-1 advantage heading into the bottom half of the inning. In the bottom of the second, six runs came across for the Gamecocks.
No runs in the inning were bigger than sophomore third baseman Brennan Norton’s three-run home run to increase Jax State’s lead to 7-2 after the second.
“Honestly, the at-bat prior to that I was seeing his stuff well, I was putting good swings up, I just was missing,” Norton said. “Talked to Coach Bush and he told me to be a little bit earlier, so first pitch I was just going to guess. If I miss, I miss, just move on to the next pitch. Luckily, he hung a slider and it was kind of right where I like it, low and in kind of, so I just kind of golfed it out.”
The Dolphins would not quite go away though as they sent a two-out three-run home run over the fence in the top of the third to cut into the Gamecocks’ lead and make it a 7-4 game.
Jax State was not phased by the offense of the Dolphins as redshirt freshman catcher Bear Madliak jacked a two-run homer. The home run made it a 9-4 Gamecock lead after three innings.
In the fourth inning, the two defenses stepped as neither team was able to get any runs across. Starting pitcher for the Gamecocks, sophomore Tanner Jones, was in a jam with runners on in the top of the fifth. Only one run came across for the Dolphins, but the score made it a 9-5 Jax State lead.
Junior second baseman Javon Hernandez knocked in one of his two RBIs in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 10-5 lead for Jax State.
The Dolphins would never go away even with the Gamecocks responding to all of the runs they scored. In the top of the sixth, Jacksonville had their best offensive inning of the game as three more runs came across for them and cut the Jax State lead to 10-8.
Even with the Dolphins continuing to chip away, the Jax State offense continued its huge night in the bottom of the sixth. Norton capped off a three-run inning with an RBI double. Jax State made it a 13-8 ballgame as the teams entered the final three innings.
Sophomore pitcher Austin Cornelius came in as a reliever in the top of the seventh and ended the game earning the save. He threw 2 ½ scoreless innings, which turned out to be incredibly important as the Gamecocks didn’t score in the bottom of the seventh or eighth.
“Cornelius was the difference,” Case said. “When he came in the game, nothing. It had been wild all night and nothing happened.”
Hernandez had a huge night at the plate for the Gamecocks after not recording a hit in the series opener on Friday. He tallied a 5-5 batting night with two RBIs.
“Honestly, it’s a normal night for him,” Norton said of Hernandez. “I mean Javon’s going to play hard and he’s not the biggest, not the strongest, but he’s, no matter what he’s going to do, he’s going to do it with everything in him. I like the way he plays because he plays real old-fashioned, he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
“I’m not going to tell him this face-to-face, but he’s been my favorite player I’ve ever played just because of the way he plays.”
Norton led the Gamecocks with four RBIs. Freshman shortstop Caleb Johnson also came up big batting in the nine hole as he went 2-3 with one RBI and two walks. The Gamecocks totaled 17 hits in the win and reached on walks four total times.