Owls Hand Gamecocks Fourth Loss

Senior outfielder Griff Gordon

Senior outfielder Griff Gordon

JACKSONVILLE — Kennesaw State has had Jacksonville State’s number in recent years.

The Gamecocks entered Friday’s game having dropped 10 of their last 11 meetings with the Owls. Their woes continued with a 10-1 loss to KSU in the opener of a three-game series at Rudy Abbott Field.

“I don’t think you think about it going in,” JSU coach Jim Case said, “but they’ve definitely had the best of us. …They’ve got a good club. You know when you play them you’d better play good to beat them.”

Case was equally impressed with the Owls’ pitching and hitting. The Owls’ pitchers managed a combined 11 strikeouts and only allowed the Gamecocks to get seven hits.

“It was nothing we couldn’t hit,” Griff Gordon said, who managed three of JSU’s seven hits. “We hit a lot of balls hard, just right at people.”

Owls’ shortstop Kal Simmons’ fielding error allowed Michael Bishop to score JSU’s lone run in the bottom of the first.

The Gamecocks’ early struggles on the mound allowed KSU to jump out to a 2-0 lead after one inning and a 5-1 lead after two. Case told starting pitcher Taylor Shields to “just throw ground balls.”

“We got out of the first inning,” Case said. “In the second inning, honestly, they did hit ground balls — we just couldn’t catch them. They hit firm ground balls. But all their hits in the second inning were ground balls, and we just couldn’t do anything about them.”

Shields (2-1) hit his stride in the third inning. He earned two of his three strikeouts and gave up no more runs until Adam Polk replaced him in the sixth. Polk struck out two but surrendered four runs in the sixth.

Michael McCreless pitched the ninth inning. He gave struck out a batter but gave up KSU’s final run.

Friday’s loss was the Gamecocks’ fourth straight loss to the Owls (7-4). JSU has not defeated KSU in a game since 2012 and in a series since 2010.

In the larger picture, the loss dropped JSU to 4-4 heading into today’s second game of the series at 1 p.m.

“I think, when you look at today, you could almost say we’re going to have to do everything better,” Case said. “We weren’t a great defensive team today. We didn’t challenge with the bats.”

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