NEW ORLEANS – The number two seed in the east, Jackson State started off the 2018 SWAC Baseball Tournament with a convincing 13-3 win over Arkansas Pine Bluff in the first game of the day.
Jackson State took the early lead. Raul Hernandez doubled to center field to put the Tigers up 1-0 in the first.
Arkansas Pine Bluff took the lead in the second. JP Soriano belted a two-run homer down the left field line to give the Golden Lions the 2-1 lead.
In the fourth, Kacy Higgins knocked in an RBI double to center field, to extend the Golden Lions lead to 3-1.
Jackson State broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. The Tigers scored a run when Stephen Vidal walked with the bases loaded to make the contest a one-run game at 3-2.
Golden Lions Head Coach Carlos James commented on what ultimately led to the loss and he pointed directly to that fifth inning.
“Just the breakdown in pitching killed us,” James said. “Peyton was cruising all the way to the fifth, and with two outs the wheels fall off. At that point, you have nobody to go to. I pulled him and they scored six runs with two outs. We finally got out of that inning but giving up six runs really put us away.”
Hernandez added a 2-RBI single to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead. Dezmond Chumley singled to left field for another run to score. Later in the inning, Jesus Santana knocked in an RBI single to right center, to give Jackson State a 7-3 lead.
The Tigers extended its lead over UAPB in the bottom of the sixth. Vidal hit a 2 RBI double to right field, to make the score 9-3.
Jackson State scored two more runs in the seventh, to win the contest via run rule by a final score of 13-3.
“Jackson State has a really good team,” James said. "To have a 3-1 lead going into the fifth was good. If we can get our starting pitcher to go six we’ll have the option of bringing in one of our starters to close. You have to have enough scholarships to have good pitching.”
Four players on Jackson State (Vidal, Hernandez, Santana and Chumley) had three RBIs in the contest. Santana was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and one home run in the win for the Tigers.
JP Soriano was 1 for 2 with one RBI and one run scored in the loss for UAPB.
The Golden Lions aren’t out of it yet as the tournament has a double elimination rule in place. Today at 9 a.m. UAPB will play the Alcorn State Braves in a must-win game.
UAPB played Alcorn in their first game of the season and they came up short 5-4, so they know what they have in front of them.
“One thing about Alcorn is they have some guys who can swing the bat pretty well,” James said. “They’re not that deep in pitching and hopefully we can have pitching as an advantage tomorrow. We have Lopez and Reynolds left and hopefully we can get a quality start.”
As far as their approach to the win or go home game James stated that the guys are trying to pick up the urgency, but he knows that at the end of the day at this time of the year the lack of funding in their program really rears its ugly head.
“Everybody is wanting to do better, trying to get each other up, and band together to move on,” James said. “The main thing is when you get to a point when you’re low in scholarships you just don’t have enough soldiers. At the end of the day you need more help, you need to be deeper in the bullpen, and have scholarship type players who can play on this level. We have a third of the scholarships that everybody else has and in tournament situations at the end of the year it shows.”