It ain’t gonna happen now.
After splitting their season-ending doubleheader with Morehead State Friday, the Gamecocks will be spending much of today waiting out the other league scores to learn their OVC Tournament fate.
The Gamecocks needed to sweep the Eagles this weekend to guarantee a favorable No. 2 seed in next week’s tournament in Jackson, Tenn.
That was still alive after they won the opener 5-3 and still is mathematically today, but their fate was ripped from their hands by a dreadful 22-3 loss in a nightcap mercifully called after seven innings.
The Gamecocks (32-24, 22-8) can still earn the No. 2 seed, but now they need some help. They need league-champion Tennessee Tech to complete its sweep of Belmont and No. 30 Austin Peay to lose to SIU-Edwardsville.
If Belmont and Peay both win, the Gamecocks would be fourth. If Tech and Peay win or Belmont wins and Peay loses, the Gamecocks will be third.
In any of those cases, they would open the tournament Wednesday. The two teams with byes don’t play until Thursday — after one team already is eliminated.
“We came into it shooting for a championship,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “We went into the last weekend feeling there was a chance we could at least share a championship.
“If we don’t get a bye, there’s nothing that says we can’t win the conference tournament. That (bye) is the easiest way to go, but right now it’s out of our hands. We’ll look at the scores because that will determine when we leave ... but I’m not going to be tied to any computer “
The Eagles (16-40, 10-20) simply pounded JSU in the nightcap. They ripped 23 hits, and in the innings they scored, they scored multiple times.
They scored four in the first and six in the third to open a 10-1 lead that JSU couldn’t overcome.
Those were the most runs given up by a Case-coached JSU team and the most runs given up by the Gamecocks since a 27-8 loss to Troy in the 1986 Gulf South Conference championship series opener.
It’s only the second time in their Division I history they’ve lost the final regular-season game before heading into the tournament (2009) and their worst loss in a final regular-season game since a 12-3 drubbing by Stetson in 2000.
“We didn’t get the game going under control in any stretch of the imagination ... and it was kind of downhill from there,” Case said. “It just kind of snowballed on us as we tried to get through the game.
“You never want to play a game like that. You sure don’t want to play your final regular-season game like that, but at the same time, there were some things we weren’t going to do. We weren’t going to take any kind of risk. We had a hard time getting them out.”
In the opener the Gamecocks jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held on. Morehead closed to 4-3 and the Gamecocks added an insurance run in the eighth.
Travis Stout pitched the ninth and earned his 17th save. Chase Silvani had three hits for JSU in the game.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.