After capturing both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday (5-2 and 5-1), the Cougars came from behind Sunday with two big innings and backed up the outstanding pitching of starter Jeb Scoggins to get the win.
With the sweep, the Cougars (27-17, 13-10) move into a tie for fourth place in the conference standings with Volunteer State. The Region VII regular season champion will move into the playoffs automatically while the next four teams in the standings will play a four-team tournament to decide the second berth in the playoffs.
Jackson State dented the scoreboard first, breaking up a scoreless game with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning. A pair of walks came around to score on a two-run single by Kane Barrow to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long, however. The Cougars came right back to take the lead in their half of the sixth. Zach Janes got things rolling by taking one for the team. After a sacrifice bunt from J.D. Cowart, DeAndre Allen unloaded a long home run deep into the trees beyond the left-field fence to tie the game at 2-2. The home team then went on top for good as Keith Buckhault continued to carry the hot stick with another two-out RBI to give his team a 3-2 lead.
The Cougars put the game on ice an inning later when they exploded for four big runs. Michael Hargrove led off the inning by dialing long distance with a dinger to right field. Cody Hiefnar and Janes followed with a single each and Cowart again executed a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up a base. A Generals miscue allowed one run to cross while Allen and Chase Edwards added an RBI single each to the cause, giving the Cougars a commanding 7-2 lead.
Barrow doubled in his second run of the day for Jackson State in the eighth, but it was too little, too late. Haydn Bailey put out the fire in relief of Scoggins and then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to nail down the win and the sweep.
“These were three big wins for us. It puts us in good position to make the playoffs going into the last weekend of the regular season,” explained Cougar coach Mike Policastro. “It started with Zajac on Saturday — he kind of set the tone for the weekend in game one. Huddleston threw the ball well in game two and then Jeb today. I couldn’t ask for much more out of our starting pitchers.”
Scoggins tossed seven strong innings to pick up the win for the Cougars while Haydn Bailey pitched the final two frames in relief. Mike Purcell took the loss for the Generals.
“We had a lot of really good at bats in all three games,” the coach continued. “We picked up several two-out hits and hit five home runs for the weekend. We had some guys step up and get the job done, and that was good to see.”
The Cougars will hit the road for Columbia State this weekend for the final regular season series with the Chargers.