Antley helps JSU to NCAA tourney bidPublished 10:48am Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Fighting off elimination for six straight games never felt so easy. Or at least, that’s how Casey Antley described it.
After dropping its first game in the Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Tournament in Jackson, Tenn., the Jacksonville State Gamecocks rallied to six consecutive victories to claim the 2014 OVC championship with a 4-2 win over Tennessee Tech Sunday.
Eastern Illinois sent JSU to the elimination bracket by holding on for a tourney opening 2-1 victory. After a win over SIU-Edwardsville, the Gamecocks exacted revenge on EIU. And it started on the mound with Antley, who tossed his first career collegiate complete game.
“I got about halfway through that game, and I knew we really needed some help as far as pitching going into the next game,” Antley, the former Holtville product, said. “We had a comfortable lead at that time and coach (Jim Case) asked me how I felt. I told him I could finish the game for him if he needed me to.
“It was an awesome experience, something that I had never done before. It was one of the highlights of my career. But it’s not easy to do. Having a great defense like we do makes it a lot easier on guys like me.”
In the 13-2 route, Antley (3-4) gave up two runs on nine hits and struck out five, throwing 123 pitches to extend JSU’s season. His performance landed him a selection on the OVC All-Tournament Team. Antley said staving off elimination in the game he pitched, as well as the other games, his team never felt any pressure.
“Honestly, throughout that whole game, I never even sensed we would lose,” Antley said. “Our whole team throughout the whole time going through that bracket, we felt no pressure. We didn’t feel like we were going to lose.
“We believed the whole time we could do it. It was absolute relentlessness, and it was awesome to watch. Even in the games I didn’t pitch, watching in the dugout, just feeling that energy from the team; the guys were willing to win. It was just amazing.”
Jacksonville State’s conference title sealed an automatic bid into the NCAA College Baseball Tournament, the program’s first since 2010 when it last won the OVC championship. The road to the College World Series in Omaha begins in the Oxford regional with Ole Miss, Washington and Georgia Tech.
“Pitching, defense and key hitting, the same things that got us through the tournament,” Antley said. “Just guys playing for each other, that’s kind of been our MO these past few games. It doesn’t really matter where we go. If we keep playing baseball like we’re playing right now, we’ve got a shot.”
After winning six elimination games, Antley said he likes his team’s chances but admitted the next outing will feel different.
“Honestly, I have no clue,” Antley said, “I’ve never (pitched in a NCAA tournament game) before. I guess I’ll find out that feeling when I get there. Our regional experience is low, but it’ll be a special feeling for sure.”
From tossing at Holtville to 11 career wins at Jacksonville State, and now heading to the NCAA tournament, Antley said he’s been blessed.
“For me to be able to play 17-18 years of baseball, it’s been unreal,” he said. “God’s been good to me, he’s kept my healthy and I couldn’t ask for a better life. Baseball’s been good to me. Hopefully, when it’s all over, I’ll have memories that I’ll have forever.”
The Gamecocks will meet the Ole Miss Rebels Friday at 8 p.m. with ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app picking up the television coverage.