Garcia shuts down Grambling in Southern’s 11-3 win

In a doubleheader sweep of Grambling on Saturday to begin a three-game series, Southern starting pitchers Jesse Holiday and Jose De Leon combined to pitch 17.1 innings, surrendering nary an earned run in a pair of one-run victories.

Sunday, Danny Garcia got his turn.

Garcia completed the dominant effort by Southern’s starters as he worked 7.2 innings to lead an 11-3 win against Grambling and give the Jaguars, who entered the weekend scrambling to secure a Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament berth, their first sweep of a SWAC Western Division series this season.

“I had to follow up two great pitching performances,” Garcia said. “I had to step up and do something.”

Garcia had not gotten out of the fourth inning in his past two starts, in large part because the senior right-hander was pitching with an injury to the middle finger on his throwing hand.

The fact his mother, Belma, had come down from the Chicago area to watch him play may have had a small hand in helping Garcia hold Grambling off the scoreboard the first six innings and limit the Tigers to three hits.

The fact coach Roger Cador had spoken publicly about starting freshman Camilo Godoy on Sunday and using Garcia to boost a struggling Southern bullpen may have also played a role in the veteran’s breakout performance.

But to hear Garcia tell it, none of that mattered much.

He said the key was taking a pain reliever before the game and being able to pitch, for seven-plus innings, with no discomfort or swelling in his injured finger.

“I was throwing the ball as hard as I can with no hesitation whatsoever,” Garcia said.

It appeared the Jaguars would need another lights-out performance from their starting pitcher, as they’d gotten from Holiday and De Leon in low-scoring wins the day before, until the Southern offense caught fire in Sunday’s late innings.

Leading only 3-2 after Grambling (14-25, 9-13) got to Garcia for a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning, Southern (17-16, 12-9) scored eight runs in its final two at-bats and finished with 15 hits.

Brian Rowry went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and Jeremy Lopez went 3-for-4 with a double.

Tyler Kirksey and D.J. Wesley both had triples for Southern, which had six extra-base hits.

“Guys got their confidence, and they started to get hits with men on base,” Cador said.

The sweep of Grambling was enough to secure a SWAC tournament berth next month in Fort Worth, Texas, and it helped vault Southern to the top of the Western Division standings with one weekend left in divisional play.

Southern closes with Prairie View at home.

“If we pitch like we did this weekend,” Garcia said, “we’re going to keep rolling.”