JSU baseball: Injury replacement Coker takes advantage of opportunity, leads Gamecocks to win over Lipscomb | Jacksonville State

JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes an unsung hero steps up at the most opportune time.

On Sunday, that guy was Luke Coker.

Filling in for an injured Brennen Norton at third base, Coker drove in Jacksonville State’s first three runs in an 8-1 victory over Lipscomb at Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium.

The win clinched the weekend series for the Gamecocks and improved their record against the Bisons to 5-1 this season. JSU (18-19, 11-7 ASUN) and Lipscomb (23-17, 11-7) are now tied in the ASUN West Division standings, just one game behind co-leaders Eastern Kentucky (26-13, 12-6) and Central Arkansas (18-20, 12-6).

“It’s a big weekend,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “That’s a tough team to beat five out of six times. It really is. ”

Coker played a big role in the Gamecocks’ big weekend. The redshirt senior from Tuscaloosa entered the game with only five hits in 19 at-bats this season. He made the most of his time in the box Sunday, finishing 2-for-3 with a walk and his first three RBIs of the season.

“He’s been wanting an opportunity, and he got one, and he’s taking advantage of it,” Case said.

After Carson Crowe led off the bottom of the second inning with a double, Coker drove him in from third with a two-out single that found a hole between the third baseman and shortstop. In the fourth, he lined a ball into the right-center field that drove in Alex Strachan and Isaac Alexander.

Coker was responsible for three of four runs allowed by Lipscomb starter Ike Buxton, who gave up five hits and three walks over four innings.

“Norton goes down, and he’s a guy that we depend on to swing the bat, and the first three runs today come from his replacement,” Case said. “It’s hard to put a value on that. I mean, it’s everything, because if we do not do that, the way that kid’s throwing, if we do not get to him a little bit, who knows? Confidence continues to grow. I think when he got that hit and knocked the second two in to put us up 3-0, it was a little bit of a dagger for the guy. ”

Coker has taken a long and winding road to get to JSU. He signed with Louisiana out of high school and spent his freshman year there in 2018. He then transferred to Pensacola State College for a year before ending up at Elon during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Coker caught the eye of JSU assistant coach Evan Bush during the summer of 2021.

“I was actually playing summer ball this past summer, was gonna call it my last ride until Coach Bush came callin ‘and saw me playing out there,” Coker said. “I figured I’m only two hours away from home here, might as well come play at Jacksonville for my last year, and I’m loving it so far.”

—Leadoff hitter Mason Maners finished 3-for-5 with one run and one RBI. He doubled in the fourth inning to drive in Tanner Snow and legged out a bunt single in the sixth. Maners is now second on the team with a .311 batting average.

—TJ Reeves upped his team-best average to .368 after going 1-for-2 with three walks. Reeves also stole his seventh base of the season.

—Alex Carignan drove in Maners and Reeves with a two-out single in the eighth inning to set the final score.

—Crowe finished 1-for-2 with a walk and stole his sixth base of the season. Both he and Reeves scored on two separate wild pitches in the seventh inning.

—Jake Peppers (4-2) was solid on the mound once again for JSU. He picked up the win after allowing four hits and three walks over five scoreless innings. He finished with seven strikeouts. Over Peppers’ last 23 innings, he’s allowed just three earned runs and has struck out 28 batters.

—AJ Causey pitched the final 3⅓ innings to pick up his seventh save of the season. The freshman closer allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk and struck out five.

—Case on Maners: “He’s been great for us. He’s kind of what you would think of as the old-school leadoff guy. He’s going to walk, he’s going to bunt, he’s going to slap it. He’s not driving the ball a whole lot. I think he will in time. He’s a strong kid. But he has been a great leadoff for us. And that’s big, because we need people on base every time Reeves hits, every time Crowe comes to the plate, because then we got a chance to score some runs. “

—Coker on Peppers: “When we go in there and we put up one spot and a three spot, to come out and put up a zero for us, that’s huge for the hitters’ confidence and for all the pitchers coming in behind him too. I think Peppers did a great job today filling up the zone and keeping them off balance. That was great to see. ”

—Coker on winning the series: “Oh, it’s huge. We hope to get rolling now. They came in hot. We knew they were going to be tough to play against, but we played pretty well yesterday and today. I think it’s huge for our confidence and it’s huge for our pitchers. They pitched well and our hitters got it rolling too. ”

—JSU will host Auburn on Tuesday at 6 pm and Mercer on Wednesday at 6 pm before a three-game weekend series at North Alabama.

Assistant Sports Editor Jared Gravette: 256-235-3572. On Twitter: @Jared_Gravette.

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