McGinnis Joins The 700 Win Club

JACKSONVILLE — Head coach Jana McGinnis thought Jacksonville State’s sweep of Tennessee Tech in its Ohio Valley Conference opening double header was just another win. She was mistaken.

After defeating the Golden Eagles 9-0 in Game 1 and 17-4 in Game 2, she lined up to shake hands completely oblivious to what she had just accomplished. She turned to embrace assistant coaches Julie Boland and Mark Wisener when the announcement was made over the loud speaker. She had just won the 700th game of her career.

“It’s not about me,” McGinnis humbly said. “It’s about the team and the girls. … It isn’t coach McGinnis’ day. It’s JSU’s softball program’s day. It just speaks highly of all the girls that’ve come through and worn the uniform. We’ve had some players that got a lot of those wins and experienced it. I’m thankful for that”

She is even more thankful to have accomplished this feat at University Field. JSU (16-5, 2-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference) spent the first month of the season on the road. Saturday was only the Gamecocks’ second time playing at home.

“It’s nice coming to our nice facility that we’re very proud of,” McGinnis said. “We’ve had great crowds. We don’t just want to win for us, we want to win for JSU and our community. It’s sweet.”

The Gamecocks totaled 27 hits in their 53 at-bats Saturday. That was good enough for a .509 average. They scored 26 runs on 27 hits, hit six doubles, two triples and three home runs. Their nine hits in the fourth inning of Game 2 is more than Tech could manage all day.

Sophomore shortstop Cadi Oliver hit a grand slam in the first inning of Game 1 for the first homer. First baseman Amanda Maldonado hit the final two, a solo shot to left just two batters after Oliver’s in the first, and a three-run walk-off shot to left center in the bottom of the fifth.

First baseman Amanda Maldonado

Senior first baseman Amanda Maldonado

“(Amanda) is surprisingly very strong,” McGinnes said. “She’s got a smooth swing. If you watch her swing, you would think: oh, she’s not a home run hitter. But when she makes good solid contact, it goes.”

Maldonado finished a combined 4-for-6 with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs. She is tied with Kalee Tabor for second most homers on the team with six.

“Yesterday was a big practice for us,” Maldonado said. “It was the practice before conference and we did a lot of hitting. Myself, along with everyone on the team, we just focused. Up at the plate, we were relaxed. Every pitch we got at practice, we drove. When the hard work comes, just stay relaxed in the box and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The Gamecocks found a spark from the bottom of their batting order. Junior outfielder Melanie Steer started in place of an injured Hayden Crawford and batted eighth. The junior college transfer entered the game hitless in her 10 at-bats on the year.

Junior outfielder Melanie Steer

Junior outfielder Melanie Steer

“I told her in her first at-bat,” McGinnis said. “I walked up there to her and said ‘Mel (Steer), You’ve been swinging as good a bat as anybody on this team at practice.’ And because she’s kept the right attitude, she’s kept working, I said ‘you’re going to have a big day for us.'”

Her first at-bat ended on a fly-ball to second. But, she finally got her first career hit with a single to center in the third inning. Game 2 is when she truly began to shine as she finished 2-for-2 on a single and a double and tied with Sara Borders for the game high four RBIs.

“It was just staying on the ball,” Steer said. “A lot of times, I’m just right under it or right above it. So, it was just good to get some solid hits after a while.”

Added McGinnis: “I’m proud of her approach. She’s had an opportunity to step in and she’s taken advantage of it.”

Tiffany Harbin (5-3) and Taylor West (2-0) picked up the wins in the pitcher’s circle. Harbin pitched a complete game in Game 1 and struck out five. It was the 64th win of her career and tied Jill Wilcoxson’s school record for most all-time. She has a chance to set the record when she starts in Sunday’s series finale.

West relieved Logan Green in Game 2 and struck out one in 2.2 innings of work. 

Borders and Taylor Sloan each finished a with four hits. Oliver, Ella Denes, Stephanie Lewis and Savannah Sloan totaled three hits each.

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