HOUSTON — After losing the first two games of the MLB Urban Invitational college baseball tournament and having only one hit through the first seven innings Sunday, Southern’s game against Prairie View came down to a backup shortstop getting his first at-bat with two outs in the ninth inning.
Sophomore Marcus Tomlin, who came in an inning earlier to replace an injured Jeremy Lopez, drove a line drive single through the hole to give the Jaguars a 5-4 win over Prairie View at Minute Maid Park.
“Marcus was the one guy I want up there in that situation,” SU coach Roger Cador said. “He’s not going to try to do too much. He’s going to stay within himself, and he did exactly that.”
Tomlin drove in Thomas Willis, who had pinch run for Jose De La Torre, who led off the inning with a single. After a Gavin Webster sacrifice bunt and a Kevin Williams ground out, it was up to Tomlin to come through with two outs.
“That is just how our team is. If one guy can’t do it, you got to come behind him and get it done,” Tomlin said. “We have a lot of heart, sometimes it just takes awhile to show it. I had confidence in myself, and it felt great to come through for my team.”
Sean Washington followed with a triple to score Tomlin, giving the Jaguars a much-needed insurance run. Santos Saldivar gave up one run in the bottom of the ninth, but struck out the final batter to seal the deal for the Jaguars (3-4).
“We really had to buckle down,” Washington said. “We were struggling the last couple games. We just had to relax and do our job. We needed to show that we could play up to our potential, and it showed today.”
Washington finished with two triples to lead the Jaguars offensively, while Stephen Wallace added a triple of his own and scored a run.
“Better late than never,” Wallace said. “We finally got the good swings going. It felt good to leave here with a victory.”
It was a tough loss for Prairie View (3-5), which got seven quality innings out of starter Jonathan Mata. The junior right-hander held the Jaguars to one hit in the first seven innings and struck out seven for the reigning SWAC champs, who lost all three games in the invitational.
“Last year, we did the same thing here, and then we won the conference,” PV coach Waskyla Cullivan said. “We just start slow. Being the champs, it humbles us. I think we needed a wakeup call. I think the best is still yet to come.”
Southern starter Daniel Garcia pitched seven solid innings for the Jaguars, allowing five hits and two earned runs. Saldivar earned the win, pitching the final two innings.
Prairie View had an early 3-0 lead thanks to two miscues by the Jaguars defense. After not being able to catch a PV runner in a rundown, the Jaguars saw a potential double-play ball go through the legs of Lopez. The mistake led to an unearned run in the fourth inning.
Southern got one back in the fifth inning after Williams knocked in De La Torre, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. The Jaguars made it 3-2 in the seventh inning when Wallace led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Webster.
The Jaguars tied the game at 3 in the top of the eighth with a Washington triple and Caleb Hatcher single past the first-base line.
That set up the dramatic ninth inning for the Jaguars, who leave Houston with a big confidence-builder.
“Our kids played hard this weekend,” Cador said. “I told them, ‘Don’t be too concerned about failure in a game full of failure. You just have to keep working hard.’
“They had a good experience this weekend. It’s always good to come back to Houston. To be here in this beautiful big-league stadium is just wonderful — not only for the kids, but me as well.”
Alabama State beat Texas Southern 3-1 in the earlier game Sunday. … ASU was the only undefeated team in the three-day invitational. … There were about 200 fans in the 40,000 capacity Minute Maid at the start of the SU-PV game.