Jacksonville State pitchers practice pinpoint accuracy while plunking a batter cutout called "the boyfriend".
Why boyfriend, why not ex-boyfriend? "I don't know coaches just called it that, one time it stuck," JSU pitcher Tiffany Harbin said.
The "boyfriend" takes it bruises, but JSU's relationship as a team is what guided the Gamecocks to becoming the lowest-seeded team to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and clinch a spot in the NCAA Regional.
"No one really had faith in us, but we did, our coaches did," JSU outfielder Hayden Crawford said. "Everyone in Jacksonville did. We knew we could do it."
It will be JSU's sixth overall NCAA Tournament appearance and its fifth in the past six seasons.
"We love each other, we're blue collar athletes that work hard every day," JSU infielder Kelci Johnston said. "If anyone deserved to win that tournament, it was us."
JSU will open region play with defending national champion and tenth-ranked Alabama.
"Alabama is always good," JSU head coach Jana McGinnis said. "Even in the media, they say they're struggling.
"When Alabama is struggling, they're still strong. I don't care what anybody says. It's just that alabama has set the standard of winning so high."
Jacksonville State (30-25) and Alabama (42-13) met seven weeks ago in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won that game 11-3. But the Gamecocks say, don't look to much into that score.
"We can beat them. They're a beatable team," Crawford said. "When we played them at home, the score did not reflect the game. We played them very well. We can hit they're pitching, it's just our defense has to stay strong and our bats have to stay good."
"You can't change the way you play because its Alabama or another big name," Harbin added. "You have to keep playing the same way and doing the little things right."
JSU will play Alabama at Rhoads Stadium Friday at 6:30 p.m.
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