Tigers wrap up historic season by receiving votes in final poll of the season
The Jackson State baseball team overcame adversity, to post one of the most memorable seasons in Tigers baseball history. Led by one of the SWAC’s best pitching staffs, veteran leadership and an experienced group of returners, JSU recorded its second straight league championship. For the first time in program history, JSU recevied votes in the final Baseball Writers of America Top 30 Poll.
In just his eight seasons at the helm of the Tigers program, head coach Omar Johnson led JSU to a third straight 30-plus win season. Under Johnson JSU has seven 30-plus win seasons, back-to-back league championships and the program’s first win in the NCAA tournament.
Jackson State earned one of the most significant wins in program history by beating the No. 1 ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 1-0 in the opening game of the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament in the Lafayette Regional at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field. The win marked JSU’s first win in the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
Vincent Anthonia and Alexander Juday combined to shutout the Cajuns. Anthonia pitched six innings to get the win. Juday got the save, as he closed out the final three innings of the game.
Back-to-Back SWAC Titles
The Tigers won their 16th conference title in program history (1968, 1971, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2013, and 2014) by beating the Alabama State Hornets 9-8 in the SWAC Tournament. With the win JSU received the SWAC’s NCAA Regional automatic berth. The 2014 title proved to be one of the more improbable runs for the Tigers. JSU had trouble finishing out series and had to overcome the loss of team equipment and personal belongings because of a bus fire right before the conference tournament. Following the bus fire JSU rattle off five straight win.
Jackson State was finished the season as one of two teams to post 30-plus wins in the SWAC during the 2014 season. JSU’s 32-25 record (.561 winning percentage) was second best in the SWAC. The Tigers posted a nine game winning streak (longest of the season) and had three streaks of four games or more. JSU posted two shutouts, beating Rust College 9-0 (Mar. 26) and Louisiana 1-0 (May 30).
Home Sweet Home - Braddy Field
The Tigers put together a 21-10 record at Braddy Field this season. The home record included a 4-1 start in Jackson, Miss.
Jackson State ranked in the Top 40 in seven NCAA team statistical categories at the end of the 2014 season. The Tigers finished fourth in hit by pitch, 10th in sacrifice bunts, 27th in on base percentage, 30th in stolen bases, 31st in stolen bases per game, 39th in base on balls and 40th in scoring.
In the individual statistical standings, Desmond Russell finished second in the nation in complete games while Bryce Taylor ranked 18th in hit by pitch.
Russell Leading the Way
In many ways senior Desmond Russell was the heart of the JSU baseball team. The utility player overcame injury to help lead the Tigers to a second straight SWAC title. En route to being named the SWAC Tournament MVP, Russell won two tournament games as a pitcher. In 14 innings of work he allowed only nine hits while striking out seven batters. At the plate he finished with a .375 batting average to go along with his six hits, six RBIs and a home run. Russell finished the season with nine complete games (second most in the nation).
SWAC All-Tournament Team
Desmond Russell and Alexander Juday were named to the SWAC All-Tournament team. During the 2014 tournament the duo combined for three wins, with Russell getting two and Juday one. Both players pitched in the league’s title game with Russell getting the start. With one out, a runner on first base and facing the potential winning run at the plate twice, Juday struck out back-to-back batters to secure the victory. Russell got the win and Juday the save.
SWAC Newcomer of the Year
First baseman Tilur Smith was named the 2014 SWAC Newcomer of the Year. This marks the second straight year the award has gone to a Tiger. In 2013 outfielder Charles Tillery received the honor.
Anthonia makes his mark
Sophomore pitcher Vincent Anthonia put his name in the history books as he pitched a gem for six innings, helping JSU pick up its first even NCAA Regional victory and knocking off the No. 1 ranked team in the country during opening game of the Lafayette Regional. He finished the season with a 4-0 record. While on the mound Anthonia allowed only five hits while striking out two batters.
Winning on the field and in the classroom
Not only did the Tigers show the heart of champions on the field they were also dedicated to being complete student-athletes as well. The Diamond Tigers finished the academic year with a team grade point average of 3.0.
Class of 2014
JSU will have to replace 12 seniors next season. The class of 2014 ended their careers as one the top classes in JSU history. The class has posted a 127-88 record and consecutive conference titles. The seniors averaged 31.5 wins per season during their JSU careers.