By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
Baseball season is here for all collegiate programs including the #23 South Alabama Jaguars. The Jaguars have high expectations of themselves as well as from Jag Nation, the Sun Belt Conference, and the media after they were picked to win the conference championship for the first time since 2016.
The Jaguars started off their 2020 campaign with a three-game series hosting the Campbell Camels, who won their respective Big South Conference in the regular and conference tournament in the past two seasons. The series was originally supposed to be spread out in a three-day split, but emerging weather forced a double-header to be established on Saturday. The Jags won the first two-of-the-three game series against the Camels.
Photos by: Lauren Barksdale
The first game on Friday night between the Jaguars and the Camels proved to be a difficult time for each batting team. The pitching on both sides was highly significant as the Camels’ pitcher in Cam Cowan pitched the entire game of nine innings. Cowan pitched a total of 94 pitches with 15 strikeouts against 27 Jaguar batters.
Right-handed pitcher Drake Nightengale started the game for the Jags and pitched 88 pitches in five innings. He was eventually relieved by left-handed pitcher Tyler Lehrmann for the remaining four innings as he pitched 70 total pitches. Both Nightengale and Lehrmann pitched eight strikeouts each and allowed five walks and four hits.
The only score of the game came off a walk-off home run from Jaguars third baseman Hunter Stokes at the bottom of the ninth inning. Stokes’ hit came in as a clutch moment for the Jaguars against the highly efficient pitching of Cowan. The Jaguars won the first game of the season and series against Campbell with a 1-0 score.
The second game of the series turned out to be the exact opposite of game one’s encounter. While the pitching was the main indication of the success of the first game, accounting for runs and hitting was the main input into game two. There were 20 total hits accounted for in the game two and 22 runs scored as the Jaguars took game two with a 12-10 score. While the Camels had a couple of big innings, the Jaguars were consistent in getting runs throughout the entire game.
In the eighth inning, the Camels allowed three Jaguars to walk with the bases loaded to get three separate scores. Centerfielder Reid Powers had a huge game as he had three at-bats where he accounted for three hits, two RBI’s, and four runs. Second baseman Dakota Dailey scored three runs with two at-bats. Left fielder Ethan Wilson accounted for five RBI’s.
In the third final game of the series, it appeared fatigued had settled in. The third game of the series was supposed to be played on Sunday, but the weather forced the Jaguars and Camels to play their final game 45 minutes after the conclusion of the second game. The Camels won 11-4. All the batters from the Jags’ previous two matchups versus the Camels played in the third and final game.
The Jaguars played six pitchers in the final game that didn’t play at any portion of the series against Campbell. After JoJo Booker’s three-inning performance, no other pitcher had more than two and a half innings of pitches. Altogether, the six pitchers totaled 192 pitches and allowed 11 hits and seven earned runs. Through all 192 pitches, there were only seven total strikeouts from the Jaguars.
This series was a great opportunity for the Jaguars to get back into the swing of their performance. There was much that the Jaguars learned from the two wins and one loss to the Camels. The Jaguars were tested early against an efficient pitching team as well as their series changing from a three-day series to a doubleheader on day two so shortly.
The Jaguars (2-1) will take their first road trip of the new 2020 season as they take the #4 Vanderbilt Commodores (1-2) in a two-game series in Nashville, Tennessee this Tuesday and Wednesday. The Commodores are the defending 2019 College World Series champs as they defeated the Michigan Wolverines in a three-game series in the Championship in Omaha, Nebraska last season.