SU wins 15th straight game
For the second time Saturday afternoon, Daniel Garcia moved from the bullpen to the home dugout at Lee-Hines Field, thinking the Southern University baseball team didn’t need him after all.
During the first game of a doubleheader sweep of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, on a brutally muggy day, Garcia was drinking water from a paper cup when Roger Cador motioned for him.
This time, Garcia wasn’t going back to the bullpen. He was headed straight from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound, called into duty after the Jaguars melted down in the eighth inning and nearly gave up a seven-run lead.
UAPB had pulled to within one run, and Garcia came in with the bases loaded and two outs.
Said Garcia, a junior right-hander who has filled every imaginable role on the pitching staff: “I’ve been in that spot before. I just hadn’t been there in a while.”
Fortunately for Southern, he got the final four outs in that first game, securing a 7-6 win.
In the second game, the Jaguars wiped out the Golden Lions 13-4, completing the doubleheader sweep for their 15th consecutive victory.
In doing so, Southern eliminated UAPB from the postseason picture. To have a shot at reaching the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, the Lions needed to sweep SU.
Their chance passed Saturday, when Garcia notched his second save of the season.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars (29-14, 15-7 Western Division) keep finding ways to win as they close in on a top seed for the SWAC tournament, which gets under way May 16 at Lee-Hines Field.
Southern and UAPB (8-35-1, 6-16) wrap up the regular season at 1 p.m. Sunday.
With a win, the Jaguars can clinch at least a share of the Western Division title — and more importantly, the No. 1 West seed at the tournament.
SOUTHERN 7, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF 6: The Jaguars nearly wasted another masterful performance by left-hander Jesse Holiday (7-3), who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
Holiday had something of a shaky start; he walked three batters in the first three innings, but largely avoided trouble and started to mow down the Lions. At one point, Holiday retired 12 of 13 batters, and UAPB’s Cornelius Williams got the first hit off Holiday in the sixth when he legged out an infield single.
It was the second straight gem for Holiday, who threw a two-hitter at Jackson State the previous weekend (the Jaguars won that game, 14-4).
On Saturday, Holiday gave up two hits and four walks in seven innings. He had nine strikeouts.
The Jaguars scored four runs in the seventh, and Holiday left with a 7-0 lead.
Then there was the eighth inning, when UAPB scored six runs and sent 11 men to the plate against relievers Zephan Rochelle, Josh Powell and Garcia.
The Lions had only three hits, but Southern issued four walks and hit two batters. Five of their runs came with two outs.
“Tough to take, tough to watch,” Cador said. “But sometimes, in baseball, you’re going to have those types of innings. The main thing was, our guys just didn’t throw strikes. There were a couple of times where we had two strikes on a guy and we let him off the hook.”
Garcia walked the first batter he faced, scoring the sixth and final run for UAPB. He got Tyler Hill to ground out, ending the inning.
SOUTHERN 13, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF 4: Wilmy Marrero came into this season as one of Southern’s best, most dependable hitters — but even as the Jaguars heated up on this winning streak, Marrero was stuck.
Even when Marrero smashed line drives, they disappeared into the gloves of well-positioned infielders.
Coming into this weekend, he had the team’s ninth-highest batting average (.258). After Saturday’s second game, however, Marrero felt much better. He went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and five RBIs as the Jaguars cruised.
“I just stopped worrying about average and played the game,” Marrero said. “That’s all I’ve been doing — thinking differently, not trying to overthink and do too much.”
Marrero smashed a first-pitch two-run homer in the third inning, and B.J. Rowry added two solo homers of his own.
Southern scored three runs each in four separate innings, and 10 of the Jaguars’ runs came with two outs.
“I felt good,” Rowry said. “I was just relaxed and not trying to attack the game, not trying to do too much.”
For Southern, only a few disappointments emerged from the second game.
First, right-hander Brian Foster (8-1) failed to make it out of the fifth inning. He was sharp through the first four innings, but struggled in the fifth, when he hit a batter and allowed three runs on five hits.
Cador pulled Foster with two outs in the fifth, replacing him with freshman left-hander John Thigpen, who held UAPB to two hits in 4.1 innings.