After dropping two out of three games at Grambling State over the weekend, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions (12-16, 9-7) baseball team now sits in third place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western standings.
With Texas Southern (9-4), Grambling (11-7), and UAPB all jumbled up at the top of the standings, it's still a close race for a SWAC Western Division title. UAPB Head Coach Carlos James and his ball club still have control over their season, and accomplishing their championship goals is still possible.
"We still control our own destiny," James said. "Texas Southern is coming up and we have Prairie View to end it. We have our chance to take the top spot if we take care of our business against Texas Southern. If Grambling loses a game and we keep winning, we'll be there. Those two teams also play each other, and they'll knock each other around. We've qualified for the tournament so that's a good thng. Now can we get better going into to the tournament where we can string together wins over a four or five day period an get to a Regional?”
This past weekend, Grambling held their senior day festivities with UAPB coming into town, and they were locked in for the series. Getting game one was a key going in for James, but Grambling's pitcher Raul Baduel controlled the game as he pitched all nine innings. Grambling won game one by a final of 9-2.
"I thought their guy did a great job of keeping us off balance," James said. "We hit some balls hard, we out hit them, but didn't get timely hits when we needed them. Their offense did, and it reflected in them scoring. They were ready to play, and I knew they would be ready to go. That guy Baduel did a good job, and when we were in Pine Bluff, we beat him here. They came out and took game one."
The Golden Lions responded in game two, which was the first of a doubleheader on Sunday. That game was a must-win if UAPB wanted a chance at winning the series. Earlier that week, James said that he felt it would be 1-1 going into the final game, and that's exactly how it played out as UAPB took game two, 12-8.
"We got started fast," James said. "It was a situation where we knew what we had to do. Like I had said, I expected to go into the last game 1-1. They answered, and we answered right back, and I was proud of them for that. To win that one gave us a chance at the series. We did a good job of responding against them on their senior day. We didn't flinch and came out the next day and won game one of the doubleheader."
Game three ended with a two-out rally by Grambling as they were down 6-3 heading into the seventh and final inning. Grambling scored seven runs in the seventh to beat the Golden Lions 10-9.
"I was proud of the way they played," James said. "We controlled that day until the last inning. We just had to do the little things right. That is the first time I've ever been on that side of being up big and having a team come back. Sometimes it just happens in baseball. At the end of the day, it’s a tough loss, but it's a teaching moment as well. The game is never over until you get the last out. It's about getting better and understanding that we have to keep plugging along. I was proud of them, and I wasn't as hurt by the loss like you would think."
This week UAPB will be out of conference starting today with a game at Stephen F. Austin that's slated for a 6:30 p.m. start. Tomorrow, the Golden Lions will travel to Waco, Texas, to take on the Baylor Bears at 6:35 p.m.
This weekend UAPB will be at home hosting the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Aggies at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex. Games are scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m., and Saturday a doubleheader will be played; both games will be seven innings. The start time for Saturday is to be announced.