MURRAY -- It took a strong summer in an inaugural season with the Ohio Valley League Paducah Chiefs, but Murray State's redshirt freshman infielder Davis Sims is starting to get a hang of this baseball thing.
A native of Paducah who was a terrorizing hitter for St. Mary, Sims was hitting just .250 after the Racers' three-game series with Buffalo concluded Feb. 26.
Since then, he's been on a tear - bumping his batting average to .344 (33-for-96) - and for the season has four home runs, 11 doubles and 25 RBIs.
In Friday's 7-5 extra-inning loss to Jacksonville State, Sims got things started on the first pitch he saw - lining a two-out, two-RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the first to give the Racers the early 2-0 lead at Johnny Reagan Field.
"I'm just taking it kind of like I did this summer," Sims said. "Trying not to do too much. I was looking for the fastball in that situation, but mostly I'm just trying to get relaxed at the plate and get my pitch.
"(Playing for the Chiefs) definitely boosted my confidence. It definitely showed me that I can do that. I can perform that way. It helped me with my confidence, but I definitely just want to come in and help the team win. That's mostly what I want to do."
Playing both first and third base for third-year head coach Kevin Moulder, Sims had another growing opportunity in the bottom of the eighth inning.
With two runners in scoring position and just one out, the Racers were down 5-3 when Sims stepped up to the plate against Gamecocks lefty reliever Justin Hoyt.
Looking to make a play, he fought off two pitches and took a ball out of the zone before swinging hard and missing on a breaking ball.
"I was trying to do too much," he noted. "When you're in a situation like that, you have to be relaxed. You can't let the situation overwhelm you. I went up there with the approach of looking for a fastball - something I could drive.
"But mostly what I learned from that is being relaxed and calm, which I think is when I'm at my best."
Can he hit a breaking ball? Sims was quick to answer.
"Yes, yes I can."
Moulder wasn't as hard on Sims as he was himself, and after the loss had plenty of good things to say about his young hot-corner hammer.
"He's been doing a great job," Moulder added. "He's been an RBI monster. He's been driving in a lot of runs and done a good job over at third or at first. He's just done a great job. Good hitter."
Gamecocks take game one
After Sims' two-RBI single in the bottom of the first frame, the Racers (14-11, 5-5 Ohio Valley) wouldn't score again until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Jack Hranec pulled a two-strike pitch to deep left for a solo home run.
Murray State (14-11, 5-5 Ohio Valley) got 6.1 innings of stellar pitching from Ryan Dills, who pickled the Gamecocks for six strikeouts and just four hits before being lifted in the top of the seventh inning. JSU (13-10, 3-4 OVC) picked up three runs in the stanza and two more in the top of the eighth inning.
MSU tied it 5-all in the bottom of the ninth against Hoyt, as Reed Thompson walked on a full count, Jaron Robinson reached on an error at short and the Racers pulled the double steal on a misplay at the backstop.
With runners in scoring position, Adam Bauer hit a sacrifice fly to deep right and Brandon Gutzler took his second pitch up the middle for the equalizer.
A two-run homer from Dalton Ethridge - his first career shot - wound up giving JSU the win in 11 innings.
"We were up in the end there and had a chance but couldn't close it out," Moulder said. "But at the same time, like we've done a number of times this year, we battled back and tied it up late and had a chance to win, but it didn't happen for us.
"I told the team that if we play the way we did the next two nights, we have a chance to win (this series)."
Game two is set for 2 this afternoon at Johnny Reagan Field. Austin Dubsky will pitch for the Racers. Colton Pate will toss for the Gamecocks.
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