Hayley Sims' walk-off homer in the 11th inning capped a night of impressive performances and lifted the Jacksonville State softball team to a thrilling 5-4 win over No. 24 Ole Miss at university Field.
(Game highlights in the featured video.)
After fouling off one 1-2 pitch from Rebels (22-10) reliever Morgan Bruce, Sims delivered the next one into the night and ended a game that kept most of the 2,813 fans in attendance on their feet for the final five innings. The win was the first over an SEC team for the Gamecocks (23-9) since defeating #13 Tennessee twice in the championship of the 2009 NCAA Knoxville Regional. That was also JSU's last win over a ranked foe before Wednesday's heroic performance.
The 11th-inning blast by Sims ended the game, but it was the last of many fireworks by a Jax State team that has now won its fourth-straight game and 11 of its last 13. The Gamecocks remain unbeaten in midweek games, a slate that has seen wins over Georgia Tech, Western Kentucky and now the nationally-ranked Rebels.
Wednesday's win looked improbable an inning earlier, when a pair of Ole Miss runs in the top of the 10th put JSU down 4-2 and facing defeat. Sophomore Ana Chisolm led off the home half of the 10th with a solo shot that bounced off of the top of the left field wall, and then senior Jamie McGuire tied the game on a line drive that pelted the top of the scoreboard almost as soon as it left her bat.
Chisolm's and McGuire's homers extended their team-leading totals of eight and seven homers, respectively, and set up Sims' winner. The no-doubter that cleared the center field wall was the Carrolton, Ga., native's second homer of the year but her second in the last five days.
Senior Stephanie Lewis also hit her second homer of the year, one that gave JSU a 1-0 lead in the second inning hours before the game ended.
While the Gamecock offense was hitting balls out of University Field, their two top pitchers were keeping an SEC lineup that entered the game hitting .333 and averaging almost seven runs per game at bay.
Junior ace Whitney Gillespie started the game and was impressive, limiting the Rebels to two runs on five hits over nine innings of work. The Pelham native struck out seven and also went 2-for-3 as a reserve at the plate. She left the game tied at 2-2 in the 10th after throwing 132 pitches, 84 for strikes.
Senior Taylor West (10-4) entered the game and allowed two 10th inning runs but settled in to earn the win in relief. The Anniston native gave up two hits and stymied the Rebels in the 11th to set the stage for Sims' heroics.
Bruce (7-3) suffered the loss after allowing three runs, all on solo home runs, on five hits in 3.1 innings in the circle. Starter Kaitlin Lee went seven innings, allowing two runs on nine hits.
McGuire led JSU with three hits, while Gillespie and Sims' each notched two hits in the win. The Gamecocks scattered 14 hits over the 11-inning game.
JSU will return to Ohio Valley Conference play on Saturday, when it hosts Murray State in a 1 p.m. doubleheader at University Field. Admission is free for all fans ages 18 and under and for JSU students. Fans can purchase tickets in advance at www.jsugamecocksports.com for $5. Admission will be $8 on game day.
(Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com)