The top home run hitting team in the Ohio Valley Conference used the long ball in its OVC Tournament opener on Thursday, when Jacksonville State blasted Austin Peay 7-2 at Choccolocco Park.
[Check out the game highlights and hear from JSU's Anna Chisolm, Taylor Beshears & head coach Jana McGinnis in the featured video]
The second-seeded Gamecocks (35-13) hit four home runs and rode a solid start in the circle from Faith Sims to hand the third-seeded Governors (32-21) their first loss of the tournament. JSU advances to Friday's winner's bracket final at 1:30 p.m., when it will face top seeded Southeast Missouri. The game will pit the two regular season co-champions in the league against each other for a spot in Saturday's championship game.
Jax State got home runs from seniors Taylor Beshears, Anna Chisolm and Amber Jones and from freshman Anna Hood to account for all seven runs against the Governors. Beshears' third-inning blast turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead, while Chisolm's fourth-inning homer allowed the Gamecocks to pull away.
Hood and Jones went back-to-back in the fifth to put the game on ice for Sims just two days after she was named the league's Pitcher of the Year.
Sims (22-4), a senior from Cordova, Ala., went the distance for her 20thcomplete game in 27 starts this season. She limited the Governors offense, which led the OVC in hitting in league games, to two runs on four hits. She struck out five and worked around six walks and a hit batter to win her sixth-straight decision and avenge a loss to Peay on April 5.
Chisolm had two of the team's seven hits off of APSU, who started first team All-OVC pitcher Morgan Rackel. The Gamecocks chased the OVC Pitcher of the Year from 2018 after four innings that saw her allow five runs on four hits, two of which were homers.
The Governors got on the board early against Sims, who walked two and hit a batter with the bases loaded to put the Gamecocks in a 1-0 hole. The run was the first scored against the JSU ace since March 19, snapping a streak of 31 and 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. It was the first earned run she'd allowed since April 13.
Sims' offense picked her up in the third after threatening with runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings. With Karsen Mosley on second after drawing her second hit by pitch of the game, Beshears went the other way with Rackel's 2-2 pitch and drove it over the wall in right center and put JSU up 2-1. The blast was Beshears' 14thof the season and the 25thof her career, making her the 2th player in school history to reach the 25 home run mark.
That 14thblast of the year gave Beshears the team lead but she wouldn't hold it for long. Chisolm belted a three-run shot to straightaway center in the fourth, tying her for that lead and giving the Gamecocks a 5-1 lead. The homer was Chisolm's 31stof her career, passing Kaycee Crow (2009-12) for eight on JSU's career home runs list.
The Governors got their second run of the game in the top of the fifth on just their second hit of the game. After Bailey Shorter drew a one-out walk, Danielle Liermann drove an RBI double into the gap in left center to cut JSU's lead to three.
JSU got it right back in the home half of the inning, when Hood and Jones welcomed Peay reliever Kelly Mardones with back-to-back to start the inning. Hood pulled one to left center that cut through the wind and easily cleared the wall and then Jones went the other way with the very next pitch. She placed it just over the wall in right, where it dropped from the glove of Rackel's glove in right.
The Govs mounted a threat in the seventh, putting two runners on with one out, but Carly Mattson's line drive up the middle was snagged by Chisolm, who applied the tag on Bailey Shorter as she tried to get back to the bag at second and ended the game.
[Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com]