Most people celebrate happy endings but the KSU baseball team is celebrating happy beginnings. The team hosted the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Stillwell Stadium. KSU defeated the Gamecocks by a score of 9-3, completing the series sweep.
The Owls started off on defense with Will Solomon, a left-handed pitcher, finding a new home on the mound. Despite being in his first year at KSU, the freshman entered his first game with a three up, three down inning. Center fielder Michael Bishop for Jacksonville State stepped up to the plate first. Bishop hit a fly ball into the outfield that was quickly caught, adding an out to the scoreboard. Next up to bat was Eddie Mora-Loera for Jacksonville. Solomon fought through the ice cold wind chill and sent three fast balls across the middle of the plate. Mora- Loera fouled two of the three balls but in the end could not handle Solomon’s fast balls and was sent back to the dugout. Solomon kept his pace for the next Jacksonville hitter giving the Owls a chance on offense.
When asked how the team prepared defensively for the game, Solomon showed a wide grin, shrugged his shoulders and said, “We just did what we normally know how to do and that’s just go out there, work ground balls and get ready for the game.”
Jacob Bruce was first up to bat for the Owls. Bruce was walked to first after Kurt Lipscomb, starting pitcher for the Gamecocks, threw several pitches. Three quick outs followed Bruce’s walk including a strike out from 3rd baseman Peyton Hart. Going into the second inning the score was tied at zero.
The Gamecocks managed to scramble in two RBIs within the next two innings. But it did not stop the Owls from managing a comeback and lighting a fuse. At the bottom of the 3rd, Bruce hit a single into the outfield. Following Bruce’s hit, Bo Way stepped up to the plate. Before Lipscomb could pitch the next ball, Bruce bolted to 2nd base. Bruce was claimed safe after leaving dirt and dust trailing behind him.
Bo Way hit a ground ball into the infield towards the shortstop. Jacksonville’s starter Coty Blanchard tried to scoop up the ball but could not manage to capture it. The score of the game increased to a tie game of 2-2.
Solomon pitched another three up, three down giving the Owls another chance to soar on the plate. Andy Alomonte was leading off for KSU during the bottom of the 4th inning. Alomonte had a phenomenal game and hit a double to the fence of Stillwell Stadium. The hit helped add momentum to the teams play. The Owls had two RBIs in their favor. By the top of the 5th, the score was 4-2 in favor of KSU.
At the top of the 6th inning, KSU head coach Mike Sansing switched pitchers. Starting for KSU was freshman Jordan Hillyer. Hillyer is another left handed pitcher that uses curve balls as his primary weapon. This seemed to throw off the Gamecocks hitters leaving their offense frozen. Tuning out criticism from being a freshman, Hillyer was ice cold and pitched a three and out to start off the 6th inning.
“I was hoping to pitch as well as I did but the inner squad hadn’t been that great control wise so I didn’t know what to expect. I just tried to stay focused out there,” Hillyer said.
The Owls kept their momentum on offense and increased their lead 5-2. Jacksonville State added one more run to their score before they ultimately fell.
Instead of coasting out with a win, KSU looked to make a statement. In the bottom of the 8th inning, runners were on second and third base after Max Pentecost hit a double. Alomonte used a bunt in an effort to drive in an RBI. The bunt allowed the third basement to score and Pentecost to move to third base. They scored four more runs and increased their lead on the Gamecocks 9-3.
“I was trying to get the third baseman to come over so that Max could move to third so that we could get the job done,” Almonte said.
James Conell ended the game pitching for the Owls. The Gamecocks could not find a spark. KSU held up a force field on the diamond and drowned Jacksonville State’s hopes of winning. Conell led another three up, three down inning giving the Owls the win for their season opener and a final score of 9-3 favoring the Owls.
The KSU baseball team plans on keeping the pace set by their season opener and surpassing last year’s season with an Atlantic Sun Conference Championship.
“I wasn’t here last year but I have heard a couple things, we have got a better staff this year and we are deeper on our pitching staff. I feel like we got it this year, winning the conference championship is a great goal for this year that’s exactly what we want to do,” Solomon said.
After the game, Almonte commented on what people can expect to see from the team this year, he gave a small smile, shook his head to the side and said, “I don’t even know, but it’s going be a good one, that’s all I know.”