Forced to watch Texas Southern’s first-round loss from the bench Wednesday, Anthony Dilligard was naturally upset.
Thursday afternoon, in an elimination game against Alabama State at the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, Dilligard was back in the lineup.
He got the chance to play. And his teammates were certainly glad he did.
Dilligard, who transferred to TSU from Baton Rouge Community College, hit a towering solo home run that began a three-run seventh-inning rally to tie the score at 3, and the Tigers added three more runs in the eighth to eliminate the Hornets 6-3 at Lee-Hines Field.
“He was a little disappointed he wasn’t in the lineup (Wednesday),” TSU coach Michael Robertson said. “After that, I told him he was probably going to DH. You’ll probably see him doing that the rest of the tournament.”
The Tigers (24-27) advanced to play another elimination game at noon Friday, when they’ll meet Jackson State.
The Hornets headed home after going two-and-out in the tournament in their first season under coach Mervyl Melendez, who was ejected in the seventh, shortly after Dilligard’s home run.
Alabama State (20-36) had taken a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning after a two-run single by Richard Gonzalez, and starting pitcher T.J. Renda (4-6) was seemingly on cruise control until the seventh.
Dilligard began the rally with his solo homer, and two batters later, Lacy Jackson crushed a two-run homer of his own to tie the score.
Jackson’s two-run single highlighted the Tigers’ three-run eighth inning.
Kevin Schulba (5-2) buoyed TSU with four scoreless relief innings, helping to keep the Tigers close until they got to Gonzalez.
“When Schulba came on, that was big,” Robertson said. “We brought 10 (pitchers) down here, and nine have starting experience. So we still can pitch our way out of this. It’s just a matter of one guy getting hot.”
PRAIRIE VIEW 2, JACKSON STATE 0: Jackson State and Southern now find themselves in similar spots: To reach the championship game, the Tigers must win three times in two days — twice Friday and once Saturday.
The Tigers, who won the Eastern Division title, now face Texas Southern in an elimination game at noon Friday.
If JSU defeats TSU, it will face Prairie View again at 6 p.m. Friday.
Thursday night, in the final game of the tournament’s second day, Prairie View got a stirring complete-game shutout from Stef Hernandez, and the Panthers (26-22) scored single runs in the fourth and sixth innings to remain undefeated and drop JSU (34-16) into the losers’ bracket.
Hernandez (7-3) gave up only four hits in nine innings, striking out five and walking one as he outdueled the SWAC pitcher of the year, JSU right-hander Quintavious Drains (11-4).
The Panthers scored once in the fourth inning when Evan Richard hit a one-out single to center field, scoring Dominiq Harris.
They added one more in the sixth when Harris delivered an opposite-field single through the right side of the infield.
Brett Valley hustled around second base and avoided a tag at the plate, giving Prairie View a 2-0 lead.
JSU had two runners aboard in the ninth inning, but Charles Epperson flied out to end the game.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE 7, ALCORN STATE 6, 12 INNINGS: The Delta Devils were at it again.
Valley — the No. 4 seed from the Eastern Division, which entered the tournament on a nine-game losing streak — got a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning from freshman walk-on Demetrins Bonner, and the Devils remained undefeated after two days at Lee-Hines Field.
“This game could’ve gone either way for so long,” Valley coach Doug Shanks said. “I knew it was going to be close, but I had no idea it was going to be that close.”
Valley (16-38) is one win away from Sunday’s championship game. At 3 p.m. Friday, the Devils will face the winner between Southern and Alcorn, who play an elimination game at 9 a.m.
Thursday, in the hottest game of the afternoon (it began at 3:20 p.m. and lasted 3 hours, 27 minutes), the Braves scored once in the top of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead.
But Valley tied the score in the bottom of the eighth on Edmund Cheatham’s two-out RBI single, scoring Allen Cheek.
The Devils won it when Bonner hit an opposite-field single to right, which scored cheek from second base.
Alcorn used three pitchers in Thursday’s game: Troy Williams and relievers Ryan Fuentes and Harrison Gary, though Gary faced only one batter — Bonner.
The Devils have used five pitchers so far in this tournament, including two appearances from their top reliever, Cody Parker.
Chris Broadway threw the final two innings of Thursday’s victory.