Hometown Hero: Joe Jackson’s walk-off homer boosts Citadel to SoCon tourney win
Just across from Fluor Field in Greenville, at 356 Field Street, is the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, dedicated to the memory of one of the legendary figures in baseball history.
Perhaps a corner of the museum can be reserved for the exploits of Shoeless Joe’s great-great-great nephew.
Citadel catcher Joe Jackson, who grew up in nearby Mauldin well aware of his baseball legacy, hit a walk-off home run over the wall at Fluor Field on Wednesday. His ninth-inning heroics lifted the Bulldogs — who had minutes earlier blown a two-run lead — to a 6-5 win over Appalachian State in the first game of the Southern Conference tournament.
“It was awesome,” said Jackson, a first-team all-SoCon pick who hit his 13th homer of the season. “I had a lot of family here today that don’t normally get to see me play, including my granddad. It felt really good, and I felt comfortable at home.”
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (33-24) advance in the winners’ bracket to face regular season champion Western Carolina, a 13-7 winner over No. 8 Samford on Wednesday.
No. 5 App State (28-23) fell to the losers’ bracket despite a two-run homer by Hector Crespo off Citadel closer Skylar Hunter that tied the game at 5 in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for Jackson’s clutch homer.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Citadel coach Fred Jordan, whose club is seeking its first SoCon tourney title since 2010. “They had a great player at the plate in the ninth in Crespo, and then we had a great player at the plate in our half, and had a walk-off.”
Swinging left-handed, Jackson hit an 0-1 pitch from Taylor Thurber over the wall in left center, then was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
“Definitely a confidence booster,” said Jackson, who was 2 for 2 with a double, a homer and three walks. “Everybody is looking forward to coming to the field every day. We’re not playing with doubt, we’re playing with confidence, and that helps.”
The Citadel won on a day when SoCon pitcher of the year Austin Pritcher did not have his best stuff. He labored through 42/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and five walks, and throwing 120 pitches. Thanks to Drew DeKerlegand’s, two-out, three-run triple in the third, Pritcher left with a 4-3 lead.
“Pritcher pitched about his toughest he could pitch,” Jordan said. “Give credit to Appalachian State for being patient and making it a pitch-count game.”
Citadel relievers Ross White, Zach Sherrill and David Rivera protected the lead, and Mason Davis scored on Tyler Griffin’s sacrifice fly in the seventh for a 5-3 edge.
“I was very pleased with the back end of our bullpen,” Jordan said. “Ross White pitched very well, and Sherrill and Rivera. Hunter did OK, unfortunately he left a pitch too high up. But I was very pleased with the way we pitched today.”
Hunter (3-4) gave up a one-out walk in the ninth before Crespo, also an All-SoCon pick, crushed the first pitch he saw for a two-run blast to tie the game.
“I just wanted to step up for my team, and I was able to get a fastball and put a good swing on it,” Crespo said. “But this was one of the toughest losses. To battle back there with two outs, the way it ended was really tough.”
The Citadel will send junior lefty Logan Cribb (4-3, 3.53 ERA) out to face Western Carolina today. Cribb went five innings and allowed seven hits and three runs in a 5-4 loss at Western Carolina on March 30. The Bulldogs led 4-3 after seven innings of that game.