Whitney Gillespie and Jamie McGuire both homered in an 8-5 Jacksonville State win over Belmont in the first round of the 2017 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Choccolocco Park.
Wearing senior pitcher Jordan Sims' No. 22 jersey to honor the team leader that was forced to sit her final year of eligibility because of an injury, Gillespie led the top seeded Gamecocks (37-10) by going 2-for-2 with the homer and a double. In the circle, she recorded every out and allowed just two earned runs to earn the win.
She grabbed a blue-collar win against the eighth-seeded Bruins (34-21) that were playing on adrenaline in the school's first ever Division I postseason appearance in softball.
After falling behind 1-0 after a solo home run by Belmont's Jordan Spicer, Gillespie tied the game when she sent a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence in the bottom of the second. An inning later, the First Team All-OVC pitcher put the Gamecocks ahead by drawing a bases-loaded walk.
Hayley Sims walked in the next at bat and made it 3-1 by scoring Anna Snider, who pinch ran for Jamie McGuire.
In the bottom of the fourth, McGuire, who also earned First-Team All-OVC honors, blasted a two-run home run to extend Jacksonville State's lead to 6-1. Gillespie made it 7-1 when she scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the fifth, before Torre Roberts ran home on a wild pitch the following inning.
While Jacksonville State was putting together seven hits at the plat, Gillespie limited Belmont's offense to only two runs on five hits in the game's first six innings. Taylor West entered the circle to start the top of the seventh after Gillespie threw 89 pitches to 25 Bruin hitters before re-entering to close the door.
After surrendering a leadoff single to Baylee Cook to start the third inning, Gillespie went on to retire the next eight Belmont hitters until Bailey Sims doubled off the right-field fence on the first pitch of the top of the sixth.
Gillespie re-entered the contest to record the final three outs of the game after West surrendered three runs on a leadoff walk and two-straight singles. However, after Belmont scored three runs on four hits in the top of the seventh to inch closer, a double play by Cadi Oliver to Sims to Anna Chisolm sealed the Gamecocks' first victory of the conference tournament.
The Gamecocks advance in the winners' bracket of the OVC Tournament and will face No. 4 Eastern Illinois at 3 p.m. Thursday.
*Video Courtesy: OVC Digital Network
(Release Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com)