Tennessee Tech scored four runs in the second inning Sunday and they were all it needed to hold off the Gamecocks 4-0 and avoid being swept in the Ohio Valley Conference series.
“The game was played in the second inning,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “Sometimes the game gets played in the first inning, sometimes it gets played in the ninth inning; people certainly usually remember the end better than the beginning. This one was played in the second inning.”
The loss snapped JSU’s six-game overall winning streak and nine-game streak in OVC play.
It was the first time the Gamecocks have been shut out since a 5-0 home loss to Alabama on March 26, 2008, a span of 306 games.
If it’s any consolation, with Belmont losing at Austin Peay, the Gamecocks (22-17, 14-4) remained tied for first in the OVC standings. But it also brought Peay back into the pennant race with a schedule that already has been through the best teams in the league.
Only 16 percentage points separate JSU, Belmont and Tech (28-12, 16-5) in the standings. The top two teams draw first-round byes in the OVC Tournament.
The Gamecocks walked only one batter in each of the three games in the series, but the one they surrendered Sunday was critical to the outcome.
In a lefty-lefty matchup the Gamecocks planned for, 8-hole hitter Michael Morris drew a two-out walk from JSU starter Tony Urban to load the bases. No. 9 hitter Jordan Parris followed with a two-run double off the base of the left-field fence to open the scoring.
The Golden Eagles added two more right away when leadoff man Zach Zarzour’s grounder straightened up on Gavin Golsan after the JSU freshman second baseman made his initial move and slipped into right field for a two-run single.
“It was an odd thing,” Golsan said. “I took a false step and just misplayed it, but once it was over there was nothing I could do about it. I was for sure disappointed and wish I could’ve made it – it could have been a big play for us – but that happens, you’ve just got to move on.”
Zarzour was caught stealing to end the inning and from there it was nothing but zeroes for both sides.
Jacob Honea and Seth Lucio split the shutout. Honea went 8 1-3 innings, holding JSU to six hits – three by Griff Gordon – and walking none. At one point he retired 15 JSU hitters in a row.
Jax State’s pitchers weren’t bad, either. They gave up only six hits and after the four-run second, Urban, Graham Officer and Robby Lilly retired 21 of the last 22 batters they faced.
“I think we showed up, I think we were excited, all the pregame stuff was just right, the game started and he was better than we were today,” Case said. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say OK, he was. You hope you get another shot at him in the tournament and to be able to prove yourself a little bit, but today he was better than we were.
“He had a great day. It was one of those days you don’t have those very often in college baseball and he had it today.”
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.