Pitching falters in Southeast Missouri State baseball's Game 3 loss vs. Jacksonville State
For the Southeast Missouri State baseball team, a sweep was much easier said than done on Saturday afternoon.
After nipping Jacksonville State by one run in back-to-back games, the Redhawks were hammered for 19 hits in a 17-7 loss, allowing the Gamecocks to salvage the series finale in a battle between the OVC's preseason co-favorites at Capaha Field.
Southeast (19-15, 10-8 OVC) used a total of six pitchers, as JSU (18-14, 7-8) took the lead in the second inning and never looked back.
"The last thing they want to do is come to our place and get swept, so they put their best foot forward, especially after getting shut out last night," Southeast center fielder Dan Holst said. "I really feel like they came in focused and ready to play, and I thought we did, too. But sometimes you just get outplayed, and we did today."
Gamecocks shortstop Clayton Daniel finished 6-for-6 with seven RBIs, including a two-run double to right that broke a 1-1 tie with two outs in the top of the second.
"He's just their little spark plug. He makes them go," Redhawks coach Andy Sawyers said about Daniel. "He plays with great energy both offensively and defensively. I felt like he had eight hits today. It seemed like every time I opened my eyes or blinked, he was coming to the plate, and then he was standing on second five seconds later.
"He's just a wonderful player, and he had a really good game today."
Daniel's hit also ended the outing for Redhawks starter Nate Green (2-2), who lasted only 1 2/3 innings before Joey Burris entered in relief. Green struck out one batter and gave up four runs -- all earned -- on six hits.
On Burris' first delivery, center fielder AJ Reynolds sent a two-run shot to right, pushing JSU's advantage to 5-1.
Green took a loss in a 66-pitch effort against Southern Illinois on Tuesday, giving him only three full days of rest for Saturday's start.
"It just wasn't his day," Sawyers said about Green. "He didn't have the normal reaction. Usually you see a lot of pop-ups in the infield the first time through the order against Nate. ... We didn't see any of that. Jacksonville had a very nice approach against him going the other way. The ball was carrying pretty well. It just wasn't his day."
Southeast answered in the bottom of the second, as designated hitter Chris Caffrey reached on a one-out single and scored on second baseman Danny Wright's double to right-center field. Shortstop Connor Basler drove in Wright on a double to left before third baseman Kyle Bottger had an RBI single that pulled the Redhawks within 5-4.
However, Gamecocks starting pitcher Joe McGuire got back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. After allowing three runs in the second, McGuire (6-0) retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced before exiting after five innings of work. He finished with five strikeouts and no walks, allowing four runs -- all earned -- on seven hits.
JSU added to its lead in the top of the fourth when Daniel blasted a two-run triple to the gap in left-center field. He scored on an RBI groundout by Reynolds to give the Gamecocks an 8-4 lead.
"We punched back and put four (runs) on them in the first two innings," Sawyers said. "It felt like we were going to be able to do some damage against them, and then they answered with three runs in the fourth inning.
"I felt like when they extended the lead that it kind of took a little air out of our sails."
A six-run seventh inning for JSU was all it took to put the game out of reach.
With one out, designated hitter Trent Simpson sent a two-run homer to right-center before left fielder Payton Young followed with a double that brought an end to Burris' day. Josh Haggerty came on in relief and issued a four-pitch walk before being replaced by Jared Waldhoff, who induced a groundout but allowed back-to-back RBI singles. Ryan Losman relieved Waldhoff and was hit for two RBI singles before striking out Reynolds to retire the side.
The Redhawks used four different pitchers during the 31-minute half inning, which ended with JSU holding a comfortable 14-4 lead.
Burris lasted the longest for Southeast out of the bullpen, giving up seven earned runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out three batters and walked one.
Sawyers said Burris struggled most when he fell behind in the count, forcing him to go with his fastball against a hard-hitting Gamecocks squad.
"He's growing up on the fly for us," Sawyers said about Burris, who pitched just two innings last season. "He faced a good hitting team with the wind blowing out and gave up some runs."
Bottger led the Redhawks with three hits, including a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh that trimmed SEMO's lead to 14-6.
"We've just tried to get Bottger's barrel a little more aggressive," Sawyers said. "... He had four hits against Eastern Illinois. It was his first four-hit weekend, and then he had more production than that this weekend. He's had his best two weekends of the year back-to-back, so I'm hoping we can get him going and get him on a little bit of a roll going into the last third of the season."
Wright and Basler each added a pair of hits for the Redhawks, who combined for 13 hits in the game.
The Gamecocks tacked on three more runs off Southeast reliever Matthew Wade in the top of the ninth before pinch hitter Michael Berra led off the bottom of the frame with a double and scored on an RBI single by pinch hitter Cooper Rentfro to cap the scoring.
The first five starters in the Redhawks' batting order combined to finish 3-for-21. That did include a home run by Holst in the bottom of the first that gave the Redhawks their only lead of the game, 1-0.
"It's tough when you get those long innings out on the field and you have to devote so much focus to every pitch on defense," Holst said. "To be able to come back in the dugout and try to have a long inning can be tough, especially when you're just hitting into bad luck. ... That's just the way baseball goes sometimes. I think If we stick with what we're doing, we're going to be really successful."
Second baseman Josh Bobo batted in the No. 9 spot and finished 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs for the Gamecocks, while catcher Hayden White, Reynolds and Young each contributed two hits.
Grant Chandler pitched two innings of relief for JSU, allowing two earned runs on two hits with one strikeout, before Justin Hoyt threw the final two innings. Hoyt fanned two hitters and allowed one earned run on four hits.
Sawyers said the team will await Thursday's MRI to determine the status of relief pitcher Carlos Vega, who had four strikeouts in Game 1 against JSU before exiting with discomfort in his elbow.
The Redhawks return to action at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Saint Louis and will hit the road over the weekend in a series at Murray State.
The future of the Redhawks' season could be determined by whether or not they can find consistency from the No. 3 spot in their weekend rotation. Southeast is 2-4 this season in Game 3s in conference play, giving up an average of 0.8 runs per inning.
"It seems like we're down five from the first inning on, and that's hard on an offense," Sawyers said. "It puts a lot of pressure on an offense to always come back and keep having to score. For us moving forward, we've just got to solidify that third spot in our pitching rotation."