Apr. 14—JACKSONVILLE — After a couple of games of hitting the ball right at fielders, Tre Kirklin went back to hitting them where they weren't Tuesday.
Kirklin had a couple of hits in Jacksonville State's 8-4 home win over Kennesaw State, including a late double that hit just inside the line.
These are much more like the results Kirklin has gotten the past month. After starting the season hitting .200 through 14 games, he has hit .304 since then.
"I kind of simplified my approach at the plate: see hittable pitches early and put a good swing on it without trying to do too much," Kirklin said.
For the year, Kirklin is hitting .258, which isn't far behind the .272 he hit for JSU's 2019 OVC championship team. Although he still leads the team in strikeouts with 31 for the season, he has cut down on those lately. He did strikeout in the fourth inning but Kennesaw pitcher Jared Rine's third-strike fastball got past the catcher, allowing Kirklin to race safely to first base.
Kirklin even added two stolen bases Tuesday, increasing his team-leading total to nine.
JSU coach Jim Case said Kirklin has hit even better than the numbers might indicate.
"He's using the whole field more than he did," Case said. "Early in the year, he was missing out front. It's hard to be a really good hitter if you're missing out front. On Sunday, he hit some balls hard, but what can you do when you hit them right at people?"
Kirklin was almost exclusively a lead-off hitter in 2019 and 2020 for JSU, but this year, has hit regularly at four different spots in the order, including first (three times), second (16), eighth (seven) and ninth (four). He hit second Tuesday.
"It doesn't matter to me," Kirklin said. "I just want to put the team in the best position with my skill-set, where that's batting second, eighth, ninth. I'm enjoying being in there, having fun with it."
What to know
—Isaac Alexander played his first full game at shortstop since hurting his quad muscle. In the interim, he missed 11 games and played parts of six others as JSU took it slowly with his injury. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
—Two freshmen got a chance at rare starts in the mid-week game. Derrick Jackson went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, and Mason Maners went 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs.
—Carson Crowe went 1-for-3 with a walk to increase his batting average to .241. About three weeks ago, he was hitting .175. He has hit .304 since then.
—Alex Strachan hit his second career triple Tuesday. His first came against Kennesaw State earlier this season. He still doesn't have a stolen base in his JSU career.
—Kirklin on the team, which is 16-15, the first time over .500 since it was 5-4 early in the season: "I think part of it is it's an older team, and a lot of guys were here for the 2019 team where we didn't have the greatest start. We started off 20-20 that year. We're not quite there. We kind of want to right the wrongs before we get to that point. We know if we play our game like we know we should, then everything will end up like it should."
—Case on the crowd, which appeared energetic even though it numbered only 531: "I thought our crowd was a huge help. When the game first started, there wasn't a tremendous number of people but people kept coming and coming and coming. I thought in the middle innings, there was some real energy. I thought it kind of picked us up a little."
—Case on watching Alexander before the game: "Just watching and all of a sudden somebody hit the ball up the middle, and he went and got it. That's what we haven't been able to do. He came and talked to me on Monday and said he felt like he's very, very close. I don't think it's 100 percent right now, but I thought he was very good tonight. ... We're a better team when he's in the lineup."
—The Gamecocks will play a three-game series at Eastern Kentucky this weekend, including a single game Friday at 5 p.m. and a doubleheader Saturday at noon.
Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.