Travis Janssen earned his 150th win as head coach of the APSU baseball team on Friday, May 14.
Win number 151 may have mattered more, though, in the scope of the Governors’ season.
The Bat Govs, previously ranked fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference, won two out of three games from fourth-place Jacksonville State. A series win places them in the conference’s final playoff spot with one rivalry series remaining.
Heading into the three-game set, Janssen met with team captains Gino Avros and Garrett Spain to see if a message to the team on the weekend’s importance was necessary. According to the coach, they were both well aware of the implications the home finale would have.
“The guys see the standings and they see where we are,” Janssen said. “They know, so there weren’t a whole lot of speeches given or anything like that. The guys were focused, they were ready to go. They played in some pressure games and played pretty well.”
The pitching tandem of Luke Brown and Harley Gollert kept the Governors afloat in the opener on Friday, but it was Bobby Head’s two-run home run in the eighth that sealed the 8-7 victory. Head finished with 11 hits on the weekend, including two home runs and four doubles.
Game two saw the Gamecocks jump out to a 4-0 lead by the middle of the second inning. A five-run ninth from JSU ensured that the back half of Saturday’s doubleheader would decide the victor of the series.
“We were amped up, we were fired up after that loss,” said Spain, who hit a two-run shot into right field to begin the rubber match. “Between games, we were just making sure everybody’s head was on track [and] trying to get this third one, because we needed it bad. Everybody was locked in from top to bottom on the hitting and pitching side of things. We just competed.”
The Gamecocks’ bats were stifled in the nightcap, as starter Drew McIllwain and the Govs allowed just one earned run in the 5-1 win. Jacksonville State loaded the bases with one out to attempt a late comeback, but a strikeout and a right-field fly out ended it.
APSU and Jacksonville State are now put in a theoretical tie for fourth, with the Governors breaking it via a head-to-head matchup. Now winners in five of their last eight games, the Governors will have an off day on Sunday before preparing to travel to Mu**ay State to finish out the season.
A loss over the final weekend could doom them, though, with JSU, Eastern Illinois and SIUE all looming within one game of the final playoff spot. The Gamecocks and EIU will face off on Thursday and Friday, while the Cougars play at eighth-place Tennessee Tech.
“They don’t need any extra [pressure] put on them, because they know if we can take care of business that we can get into the tournament,” Janssen said. “And they do believe, if we get to that tournament, we’re good enough to win it.
“I have enjoyed this team thoroughly, and I just keep telling myself – and I keep telling them – that we’re bound for something special to happen. They pull for each other and they have been an outstanding group. I hope something really neat can happen down the stretch.”