Southern splits doubleheader with Texas Southern

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Tyler Kirksey makes contact during a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff earlier this season. Kirksey was 2 for 5 with three runs and an RBI in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader against Texas Southern. The Jaguars won the second game 8-5, earning a doubleheader split.
Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Tyler Kirksey makes contact during a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff earlier this season. Kirksey was 2 for 5 with three runs and an RBI in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader against Texas Southern. The Jaguars won the second game 8-5, earning a doubleheader split.

The Southern baseball team’s hitting surged in time, allowing the Jaguars to beat Texas Southern 8-5 and salvage a split of Saturday’s doubleheader and one win in the weekend series at Lee-Hines Field.

The Jaguars had just two runs in 22 innings while losing Saturday’s opener 6-1 after falling 2-1 in 13 innings Friday.

“The coaches told us that the pitching staff was there, but the hitting wasn’t backing them up,” outfielder D.J. Wallace said. “After hearing that two games in a row, it sunk in, and it definitely happened when it needed to.”

Southern batted just .143 in Friday’s game and .133 in Saturday’s first game but .286 in the finale as it overcame a 5-4 deficit with four runs in the seventh.

Coach Roger Cador asked the batters to move closer to the plate and go the opposite way, which is where nearly all of the 10 hits in the second game went.

“I think the kids concentrated a little better,” Cador said. “We asked them to make an adjustment, and they committed themselves to it and they enjoyed some success.”

Southern, which hosts Nicholls State on Wednesday, is 7-21 overall and 3-13 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Tigers are 18-23 and 11-5.

Phillip Williams led off the seventh with a walk, stole second and scored the tying run on Tyler Kirksey’s double.

One out later, Wallace walked and B.J. Rowry doubled home two for a 7-5 lead. After another out, Rowry scored on an error by second baseman Chris DeLeon.

Rowry redeemed himself after making one error in each game and failing to come up with another grounder in a two-run first in the first game.

The Jaguars took their first lead of the series in the first inning of Game 2. Williams led off with a single and Kirksey forced him, then stole second and third and scored on Wallace’s double.

A pair of errors helped the Tigers tie the score in the second. Zach Welz led off and reached on Williams’ throwing error from shortstop. Welz advanced on a sacrifice and an error by Rowry at first, then came home on a double steal.

TSU returned the favor in the fourth when right fielder Eugene Freeman dropped Harley Wiltz’s fly ball with two outs, enabling Rowry to score.

The Tigers tied it in the fifth when Jag Gordaya walked, stole second and scored on DeLeon’s single.

Southern took a 4-2 lead in the bottom half on Jose De La Torre’s RBI single and Wallace’s sacrifice fly.

TSU scored three during an unusual sequence in the sixth. With one out, Chris Lopez and Luis Armas hit consecutive singles, and Freeman reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases.

Robert Garza singled home one run before Gordaya hit a sharp grounder deep in the hole at shortstop. Armas scored as Williams made a diving stop and threw late to second, but Garza wandered off the bag and second baseman Robinson Mateo tagged him out. At the same time, Freeman broke from third and beat Mateo’s throw to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead.

But after the Jaguars regained the lead in the seventh, Jacob Polk pitched a scoreless eighth and Rafeal Diaz handled the ninth, leaving the tying runs on base when he struck out pinch hitter Samuel Terry for his fifth save.

“We did get down, but they fought back and did some good things,” Cador said. “They could have gotten depressed because they’ve lost games they should have won all season, but they didn’t.”

In the first game, Southern managed just four hits as TSU’s Michael Starkey pitched a complete game.

The Tigers scored all the runs they would need when they got two against John Thigpen (1-3) in the first.