First baseman B.J. Rowry will be among five seniors honored before their final home baseball game at Southern on Sunday.
But Rowry grabbed the spotlight a day early as he went 6-for-7 with four RBIs as the Jaguars split a doubleheader with Grambling on Saturday at Lee-Hines Field.
Rowry went 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs as Southern won the second game 6-5 in 10 innings. In the Jaguars’ 6-3 loss in the first game, he was 2-for-3 with a home run.
“I’m just enjoying the fact that I’m out here,” he said. “That’s the attitude I took into game one and game two.”
Rowry’s second-game heroics were supplemented by D.J. Wallace’s ninth homer of the season and Harley Wiltz’s tiebreaking, RBI single in the eighth as Southern took a one-run lead to the ninth. But Rafeal Diaz couldn’t get the save; Edwin Drexler tripled home the tying run for the Tigers.
Grambling had a chance to take the lead in the 10th when Yariel Medina led off with a double for his third straight hit and Korey Hall sacrificed him to third.
But Southern reliever James Fontenot (1-0), who entered the game with an 8.16 ERA, struck out Brandon Kiser and, after a walk, whiffed Johnathon Tineo on a 3-2 pitch.
“I’m happy for Fontenot,” Jaguars coach Roger Cador said. “He’s had so much bad luck all year. ... He gave us that opportunity to win.”
In the bottom half, Robinson Mateo doubled with one out against Brock Baker (1-5). Sergio Torres slapped a grounder to short that went between the legs of Juan Bueno for an error, and Mateo raced home with the winning run.
The Southern players poured out of the dugout and celebrated as though the victory did more than just improve the team’s record to 8-23 overall and 4-14 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“That’s very un-Southern-like, but the kids deserve it,” Cador said. “They’ve had such a difficult season. I’ll approve that one.”
Grambling’s victory in the first game clinched a berth in the SWAC tournament for the Tigers (12-27, 10-13). Southern is mathematically alive for the final spot from the West Division but has no margin for error after Prairie View A&M swept Texas Southern on Saturday to improve to 10-9.
The Jaguars would have to win all six of their remaining conference games, including three at Prairie View next weekend, and the Panthers would have to lose their other two games in addition to the ones against Southern to send the final tournament spot to a series of tiebreakers.
“It just feels good to get that win,” Rowry said. “If we didn’t, it would have been very depressing.”
After the Jaguars squandered a 3-1 lead after six innings in the first game, second game starter John Thigpen set the tone for the comeback, pitching into the eighth inning and striking out nine while allowing four runs.
“I just wanted to get off to a good start and give the team good, quality innings,” he said. “I just wanted to give the team an opportunity to have a victory.”
The first game was Southern’s season in a nutshell. The Jaguars led early but lost the lead late as poor defense and relief pitching negated solid starting pitching.
Santos Saldivar got a no-decision after pitching seven innings and allowing just three unearned runs.
Grambling broke a 2-2 tie with three runs against Conner Baumgardner in the eighth. Hall led off with a single, Kiser bunted him to second and Roger Diaz singled him home with the tiebreaking run. Diaz stole second and scored on Tineo’s single. After Tineo was thrown out trying to steal, Travaurs Bell walked, went to second on Kris Minter’s single and scored on Drexler’s fielder’s choice grounder.
Southern broke a scoreless tie in the third on Jose De La Torre’s two-run single.
The Tigers halved the lead in the sixth when Medina doubled with two outs and scored on the second of shortstop Bud Morton’s three errors.
Rowry’s solo homer increased the lead to 3-1 in the bottom half before Grambling rallied.
“B.J. had a day to remember,” Cador said. “He kept us alive.”