After waiting out a soaking rain for five hours and then playing through its remnants, Jacksonville State dropped game two of its weekend series with Belmont Saturday 10-6, falling further behind in the Ohio Valley Conference baseball race.
The Gamecocks (26-21, 17-6 OVC) went into the series with a percentage points hold on first place in the league. They left Saturday night in third place, 1.5 games and 53 percentage points behind league-leading Tennessee Tech, which was playing out of conference this weekend.
The top two teams draw first-round byes in the OVC Tournament.
“It was an ugly, ugly night for baseball,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “Every single ball that hit the ground had to be thrown out. There was no such thing as a ground ball going back to the mound.
“There were some positives, there just weren’t enough.”
Nothing was uglier than the way the Gamecocks played the sixth inning.
They had just taken their only lead of the game in the home fifth, then fell back behind 7-5 after two errors by first baseman Adam Miller, a balk before reliever Michael Mason even threw his first pitch and a wild pitch led to three runs.
In addition to that bad inning, the Gamecocks had a runner thrown out at home, their six pitchers issued nine walks, and their fielders were charged with four errors. They easily could’ve been charged with a season-high fifth error on a liner that scorched through left-fielder Chase Silvani’s glove in the seventh inning and was scored a double.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball,” Case said. “They were routine type things. We had a difficult time tonight.
“It was like the wheels came off for a short period of time and it was like it snowballed.”
The game originally was set for 2 p.m. but was pushed back by the weather projections to 6 and then 6:30. Where possible, the JSU players were working on the field to have it ready in the event they played.
Once the game finally got underway, shortly after 7 p.m. with rain still falling, JSU starter Taylor Shields never could get on track. He threw 43 pitches in the first inning and was touched for three runs.
He went 0-2 on the game’s first hitter but lost him to a full-count single, then gave up two other run-scoring hits and walked three before the inning was over. He was lifted in the second after giving up a first-pitch leadoff double.
“He was down, which is usually a real good sign for him, but he was down and out of the strike zone,” Case said. “Generally when he pitches and things don’t go good it’s because he’s up. Well, he wasn’t up. Everything was down, but he just had a hard time getting in the bottom of the strike zone. When he came back out for the second inning and they hit the first pitch, I thought, hey, this was not his night.”
The Gamecocks scored in the second on a groundout by Andrew Bishop. Belmont got it back in the top of the third off Graham Officer, but JSU closed to 4-3 on Paschal Petrongolo’s two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
JSU tied it in the fourth when Miller lofted a fly into right and Belmont right-fielder Drew Turner slipped on the wet grass trying to move on it. The ball fell for a hit and scored Silvani, who started the rally with a two-out single.
Petrongolo scored the go-ahead run in the fifth. He led off the inning a double underneath the scoreboard and later scored when Andrew Bishop hit into a double play.
The Gamecocks fell apart in the sixth. Belmont loaded the bases when Miller dropped an infield pop. Case brought in Mason, who immediately balked home the tying run. The Bruins (32-13, 18-5) went ahead when Miller threw wildly to the plate on a potential double-play grounder and added another run on a Mason wild pitch.
JSU cut it to 7-6 on Griff Gordon’s RBI double, but Miller was cut down at the plate trying to score from first on the play.
Michael Bishop had three hits for JSU and Petrongolo had two. Coty Blanchard saw his 14-game hitting streak end, but he has reached base in 24 straight games.
Drew Ferguson, Jared Breen and Turner all had three hits for Belmont.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.