Back-to-back swings set the tone and the Jacksonville State softball team held off top seeded Southeast Missouri for a 4-3 win that sends the Gamecocks to Saturday's Championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
[Game highlights and postgame reaction from JSU's Faith Sims, Anna Chisolm, Taylor Beshears & head coach Jana McGinnis are in the featured video]
Seniors Anna Chisolm and Taylor Beshears hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning to pt four runs on the board for the second-seeded Gamecocks (36-13). Senior Faith Sims then held off the Redhawks (42-16) to lead JSU in the battle of the 2019 OVC Regular Season Co-Champions.
The win puts JSU in Saturday's title game, which will start at 11 a.m. at Choccolocco Park, without a loss in the double-elimination bracket. They will face either SEMO or Eastern Kentucky, who will have to beat the Gamecocks twice to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
JSU is seeking its fourth-straight tournament title, which would tie SEMO (1996-99) for the longest streak of consecutive titles in league history.
Sims (23-4) retired the first eight outs of the game via strikeout and then held on for the one-run win. She struck out 11 batters in the complete game, her 21stin 21 starts this season.
The Gamecocks struck first with four runs in the top of the third, when Chisolm and Beshears went back-to-back with long home runs and put them up 4-0. Chisolm launched a 2-2 pitch well over the wall in right. The two-out, three-run homer followed a leadoff single from Hayley Sims and an error that allowed Jada Terry to reach on her sac bunt attempt. Beshears followed with a towering shot to straightaway center that also came on a 2-2 Rachel Rook pitch.
Faith Sims posted zeroes on the board until the fifth, when SEMO's Sarah Messex's leadoff homer cut JSU's lead to 4-1. The homer was the first off of Sims since Mississippi State hit one on April 3 and just the second by an OVC player this season.
The Redhawks would get two on and the tying run at the plate in each of the final three innings, and Sims escaped the fifth and sixth with no damage.
The seventh saw the Redhawks finally break through. They put two on with no outs and ended up cutting the deficit to one before Sims got Kaylee Anderson to pop out to third to end the game with the tying run standing at third.
Rook (9-4) suffered the loss for the Redhawks after allowing four unearned runs on three hits in three innings. Alexis Estes tossed four scoreless innings in relief, allowing just two hits.
[Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com]