Southern splits, eyes potential rematch with Jackson State

If the baseball standings in the Southwestern Athletic Conference hold, Southern will head to the conference tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, later this month as the No. 1 seed from the Western Division and Jackson State as the top seed from the East.

The two will have some unsettled business when they get there.

In their only meetings of the regular season, Southern and JSU split a doubleheader Saturday at Lee-Hines Field, setting up the possibility for a “rubber match” should they meet in the SWAC tournament.

Jackson State rode the strong pitching of Alexander Juday and three two-run innings to a 6-4 victory in Saturday’s opener. Southern rebounded to take a convincing 10-3 win in the second game.

“That would be nice if we could play them in a tiebreaker,” Southern designated hitter Kevin Williams said. “We know what they have, and they know what we have. It would be exciting if we played them again.”

Jackson State (27-19) finished SWAC Eastern Division play last weekend with a 19-5 mark and has already wrapped up the division title.

Southern (20-21) entered the weekend with a slim lead for first in the West after finishing 14-10 in division action, but Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View are both still alive and have yet to complete divisional play.

Because the Jaguars and Tigers are in opposite divisions, neither of Saturday’s games counted toward the SWAC standings.

“I hope to see (Southern) again if it means we’re both in the championship game,” JSU coach Omar Johnson said.

Johnson may rather not facing either of the two pitchers Southern threw on the final day of its regular season.

Senior left-hander Jesse “Doc” Holiday took his third loss of the season in Saturday’s opener, but only after striking out a career-high 13 batters and holding JSU to two runs through the first seven innings.

In the second game, junior right-hander Jose De Leon gave up eight hits in eight innings. All three runs JSU scored were unearned.

Both starters threw 100-plus pitches, far more than Southern coach Roger Cador had planned.

“Simply because they wouldn’t let me take them out,” Cador said.

JACKSON STATE 6, SOUTHERN 4: Holiday — who fanned six of the first eight batters — and Juday were locked in a scoreless pitchers’ duel until Nick Marigny knocked an RBI double to highlight a two-run fifth for the Tigers. Southern came right back with two of its own on a two-run double by Williams in the bottom of the inning.

But the lead was JSU’s for good when Aneko Knowles led off the eighth with his first homer of the year and Charles Tilery added an RBI double.

Holiday, whose day ended after Malcolm Tate followed the Knowles homer with a single, was charged with both of those runs.

Juday nearly went the distance, but was replaced by Andre Rodriguez after giving up an RBI double to pinch hitter D.J. Perkins with one out in the ninth. Rodriguez allowed Perkins in on a Tyler Kirksey sacrifice fly, then induced a Williams groundout to earn his second save.

SOUTHERN 10, JACKSON STATE 3: The Jaguars made it clear early they would not get swept.

Southern raced to an 8-0 lead through two innings, chasing JSU starter Vincent Anthonia before he could record an out in the second. The Jaguars had four hits in the first inning — a triple and three doubles — and six more in the second.

“We came together,” Williams said. “We knew that we had to jump on them early because they had won and they were going to come out pretty tough. If we come out early, we knew we could stop their momentum and just carry on from there.”

The Nos. 1-5 hitters in Southern’s lineup combined to go 14-for-23 with four doubles, one triple and a homer and drove in six of the runs.

Kirksey, who led off the first with a triple, was 4-for-5 with two RBIs. Williams went 3-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs.

Cleanup man Brian Rowry (2-for-5) launched a solo homer in the fourth to make it a 9-0 game.

Meanwhile, De Leon kept JSU off the scoreboard in seven of the eight innings he pitched, allowing three unearned runs in the fifth as Southern committed two errors.

Josh Powell set the Tigers down in order in the ninth.