Late Rally Not Enough For Gamecocks

Sophomore outfielder Ella Denes

Sophomore outfielder Ella Denes

JACKSONVILLE — Sophomore outfielder Ella Denes said she “honestly didn’t assume” Jacksonville State was facing Georgia State’s ace during Wednesday’s game.

It’s understandable considering the Gamecocks usually only face an opponent’s ace during weekend conference series.

But, the Panthers sent their ace, Kaitlyn Medlam, to the pitcher’s circle in Wednesday’s non-conference meeting. She proved to be too much for the Gamecocks in their 10-6 loss.

“I’m glad we played this game,” head coach Jana McGinnis said, “because that pitcher, she was very unique. I don’t know if we have faced many pitchers like her. She threw three different speeds. In the first four innings it was obvious. It was hard to adjust to her.”

“For girls who just like to pull the ball, it’s a long day.”

It was a long day for the pull-happy Gamecocks (29-12). They were held hitless until Sara Boarders doubled in the fourth inning. But, that day was made even longer by their three fielding errors. That’s uncharacteristic of the Gamecocks who entered the game with the third best fielding percentage in the country at .980.

“That’s just something you have to learn from,” Denes said. “That’s not us. We’re going to bounce back from that. We’re going to learn from that. That was a fluke. I’ll call that a fluke.”

Denes finished 1-for-2. Her lone hit ended the Panthers’ bid at a shutout in the sixth inning when she crushed her sixth homer of the season. That cut the Panther lead to 4-1. But, the Panthers grabbed six more runs in the seventh thanks to four-straight homers. But just when defeat seemed certain, the Gamecocks found their “fire.”

Junior second baseman Sara Borders

Junior second baseman Sara Borders

Denes’ sac-fly with the bases loaded in the seventh scored Savannah Sloan. Taylor Sloan’s single to left scored Hayden Crawford. Sara Boarders cleared the bases with a three-run homer.

“It was good,” Boarders said, who leads JSU with 13 homers. “It was two outs so I was just looking for a pitch that I could hit hard. I wanted to score some runs there.”

The Gamecocks’ rally ended two batters later with a fly-out to left field. But, this game was anything but a crushing defeat. They earned six runs on eight hits in their final two innings, a welcomed sight to McGinnis.

“Even though it’s a loss on the scoreboard,” she said, “it’s just a moral victory for many reasons. What I was proud to see was our hitters make adjustments. Yeah, I think we should have made them before four innings. But, I saw adjustments being made. I saw the fight and the belief that, hey, we might win this ballgame.”

Added Denes: “It all just come down to adjusting in the box. The first couple of times through the lineup, we were so tense in the box. We’ve been in this indescribable slump. We have the energy, we have the focus, we’d kind of been holding ourselves back. We were talking in the locker room about how we really found our fire again that game. Even though it’s a loss on the scoreboard, we don’t count it as a loss. I think we just kind of lost our spark for a little while. But, we’ve definitely found it again and we’re excited for this weekend.”

This weekend, the Gamecocks will travel to Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Martin for major Ohio Valley Conference doubleheaders. In the long run, losing to GSU does nothing for their hopes of another OVC Championship. But, Sloan feels it has prepared them for this weekend’s games.

“It’s beneficial to us that they threw their ace” Boarders said, “because now we’ve seen a better opponent going into the weekend.”

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