With a runner on second, Logan Stephens showed bunt, pulled back and then looped a double into center field to break a tie in the 14th inning as the Eastern Kentucky University baseball team beat Jacksonville State University, 11-8, in the longest game in Ohio Valley Conference Tournament history on Friday/Saturday at Choccolocco Park.
EKU is among the final three teams remaining in the OVC Tournament. The Colonels (30-30) will face Morehead State on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The winner will advance to the championship round against Tennessee Tech. That game will also be played on Saturday, at 5 p.m. ET.
Trailing 8-6 and having not registered a hit in the fifth, sixth or seventh innings, EKU rallied in the eighth. Daniel McFarland reached on an error to start the inning. Two batters later Cornell Nixon drew a one-out walk. Will Johnson followed with a single to load the bases. Nick Howie then sent a 1-1 pitch into right center to plate two runners. The third was thrown out at the plate.
Alex Holderbach led off the top of the 14th with a double down the left field line. Stephens stepped to the plate and looked to move the runner to third with bunt on the first pitch, but missed the ball. On the second pitch he showed bunt again, however when the shortstop moved to cover second base Stephens brought the bat back and hit a double to left center to score Holderbach and break the 8-8 tie.
Two batters later, Ryland Kerr brought home two insurance runs with a single to left center. Casey Collins, who had pitched a spotless bottom of the 13th inning, retired the first two batters in the bottom of the 14th before a single kept the game going. Collins got the next batter to fly out to end the marathon.
The game set a new record for the longest game in OVC Tournament history, lasting five hours and 33 minutes. It also broke the previous tournament game record of 13 innings.
With the win, the Colonels secured the program’s first 30-win season since 2012 and only the fifth 30-win campaign since 2000.
Sixth seeded Eastern Kentucky grabbed an early lead before watching JSU storm back.
McFarland’s RBI ground out in the second got Eastern on the board. Johnson made it 2-0 in the third when he scored on a fielding error. A sacrifice bunt from Chris Botsoe and a run scoring single through the left side by Kerr capped the three run third inning and pushed EKU in front 4-0.
The No. 4 seed Gamecocks came right back in the bottom of the third and scored seven runs to swing the momentum their way. Isaac Alexander’s grand slam turned a 4-3 Eastern Kentucky lead into a 7-4 deficit.
Eastern closed within one by scoring two in the top of the fourth. Howie scored Nixon with a single to right center. Johnson scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 7-6.
Aaron Ochsenbein came in to pitch in the seventh and provided five and one-third innings of scoreless relief before leaving after the 12th inning. He allowed just three hits, walked two and struck out eight.
Howie finished 4-for-7 with a run and three RBIs. Johnson was 2-for-6 with a walk and two runs scored. Nixon went 1-for-4 and scored twice.
Alexander had a 2-for-4 day with two walks, a run and four RBIs for Jacksonville State. Eight different Gamecocks scored one run each.
Eastern Kentucky began play at the OVC Tournament with a loss to No. 3 seed Morehead State on Wednesday. The Colonels knocked off No. 7 Murray State, 13-6, Wednesday night and then beat No. 5 Austin Peay, 5-1, on Thursday in the elimination bracket.
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