JACKSONVILLE — The 2018 season will mark head coach Jim Case’s 16th season as head baseball coach at Jacksonville State.
He has led the Gamecocks into the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for all 14 years since joining the league in 2004 and has claimed the league crown in four of those seasons. Jax State is coming off a 30-26 campaign in 2017 and a third-place finish in the OVC.
Last season was a unique season for the program, as it spent the majority of the year on the road with the construction of the new Rudy Abbott Field. JSU played 30 of its 56 games as the visitors. The Gamecocks played their home games at Choccolocco Park in nearby Oxford.
The opening of the $7.5 million stadium will be delayed due to unseasonable weather in northeast Alabama. JSU will continue to play at Choccolocco Park until the stadium is complete.
The season begins on Friday, Feb. 16 with a three-game series against Southern Illinois at Choccolocco Park.
Even though JSU lost three key figures from last season due to graduation and the Major League Baseball Draft, Case and his veteran coaching staff of Mike Murphree and Evan Bush return most of the offensive lineup and depth on the pitching staff.
JSU will need to fill the holes created by Josh Bobo in the lineup and pitchers Joe McGuire and Justin Hoyt. McGuire, the 2017 OVC Pitcher of the Year, graduated and Hoyt was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in last June’s MLB Amateur Draft.
JSU will rely on experience throughout the order, led by senior Clayton Daniel.
Daniel, an All-American selection after the 2016 season, has been steady throughout his career. The Guntersville second baseman led the club at the plate with a .328 batting average.
He is coming off a superb summer in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Playing for the Falmouth Commodores last summer, he turned in a .316 batting average in the wooden bat league and ranked ninth in batting average and was also named a CCBL All-Star.
Daniel will be joined by other senior veterans Trent Simpson, Taylor Hawthorne, Hayden White and Nolan Greckel.
Simpson, a two-way player who hit just above .300 in his first season with the program and led the team in home runs with 18 and drove in 50 runs, could also be called to fill in the closer’s role for the departed Hoyt. Simpson was groomed last season with some late-inning work.
Hawthorne, JSU’s everyday shortstop for the last three seasons, could see time in the outfield.
After solid freshmen campaigns by Andrew Naismith and Chase Robinson, Case views those two as key returning players with valuable experience.
Naismith finished his first season on the collegiate level hitting.302 and was named to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-American Team. The Auburn native also earned a spot with Robinson on the All-OVC Freshman Team. Robinson wrapped up his rookie season with a .295 batting average.
On the mound, Jax State returns two of its weekend rotation pitchers with junior Derek Adams and senior Colton Pate.
Adams, who moved into the Friday night role, finished the 2017 season with a 7-3 record and 94 strikeouts in 15 starts. Pate enters his third year with the program and will look to build on his two seasons of pitching at this level.
Junior Garrett Farmer, who was sidelined early in the 2017 season with an injury, will be looking to earn a spot in the rotation.
The JSU bullpen was bolstered by young arms last season with the services of Grant Chandler, Tyler Wilburn, Cody Dodd and Corley Woods.
Case added 15 new faces to the program and will look to get contributions from them throughout the season. The new class is highlighted by signings of Isaac Alexander (Muscle Shoals), Colin Casey (Jacksonville), Alex Strachan (Madison), Grant Galbraith (Signal Mountain, Tennessee) and Cole Frederick (Tuscaloosa).
Season tickets are now available online at JSUGamecocksports.com or by calling the JSU Athletic Ticket Office at 256-792-8499.