Prairie View starts fast, overpowers SU

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Marcus Tomlin gets the force out on Prairie View's Brad Benes at second but mishandles the ball before attempting the play at first. Southern committed five errors, leading to seven unearned runs by Prairie View.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Marcus Tomlin gets the force out on Prairie View's Brad Benes at second but mishandles the ball before attempting the play at first. Southern committed five errors, leading to seven unearned runs by Prairie View.

In a pair of losses Saturday to Southern at Lee-Hines Field, the Prairie View baseball team fell behind by seven runs in one game and five in the second.

Each time, a late-game rally fell two runs short.

The Panthers put themselves in no such predicament Sunday in the series finale.

Prairie View jumped on Southern for three runs in the first inning, building a lead it never relinquished in a 9-2 victory over its Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division rival.

“I told the guys I liked the fight,” Prairie View coach Waskyla Cullivan said of the near-misses in Saturday’s doubleheader.

“I told them we’d break through.”

The Panthers did, but it may have been a case of too little, too late for Prairie View in the West Division race.

Southern (19-18, 14-10), which entered the weekend in first place, may be in the best position to win the West even though it is the only team in the division that has finished its divisional schedule.

Prairie View (20-20, 9-9) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (17-26, 10-8) have six makeup games to play over the next two weekends.

Prairie View must win all six to win the division.

UAPB needs to win four of the six.

“It’s a matter of waiting to see what happens,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “I think we could have gone a long way in solidifying ourselves as champions of the West had we won today. But we’re still in good shape.”

Cador said he hoped the Jaguars could make a statement by finishing its second sweep of a West Division foe in as many weekends.

Instead, the Jaguars were sloppy in the field and lacked key hits at the plate.

The defense committed five errors, helping set up Prairie View for seven unearned runs.

On offense, Southern had 10 hits — one more than Prairie View — but left eight runners stranded.

“I thought they wanted to play to send a statement,” Cador said of the Jaguars. “We had a chance for the sweep, and we could have done it two weekends in a row. We just ... just ... didn’t want it enough.”

After being held in check by Southern starting pitching in Saturday’s doubleheader, Prairie View got to Sunday starter Danny Garcia for three runs in the first.

But all three runs were unearned.

Brett Valley scored on a wild pitch after advancing to third on a Alejandro Santiago throwing error, Walter Wells scored on a Greg Salcido sacrifice fly after advancing to third on a Garcia throwing error, and a double by Dominiq Harris scored Brad Benes, who had reached on the Garcia throwing error.

Garcia settled in over the next five innings, giving the Southern offense time to battle back.

Gavin Webster started the scoring for Southern with a monster homer over the scoreboard in right field, making it 3-1 in the second.

An inning later, Kevin Williams roped a double to left-center, sending Tyler Kirksey home to make it a one-run game in the third.

But in the seventh, Prairie View put the Jaguars away.

Garcia gave up the first four runs of the Prairie View seventh and John Thigpen surrendered the final three.

Southern’s defense committed two more errors in the inning.

“We just couldn’t put it together,” Cador said. “We couldn’t get over the hump.”

Prairie View starter Michael Medina worked seven innings to get his third win.