The Loyola baseball team entered Tuesday’s game at Lee-Hines Field having lost four in a row and knowing it had been eliminated from Southern States Athletic Conference tournament contention.
Seven days earlier, the Wolf Pack had been beaten by six runs on the same field.
But Loyola looked little like a team playing out the string.
The NAIA club from New Orleans bounced back from its recent woes to score a 7-3 victory over Southern, picking up the final five of those runs — and half of its eight hits — after the Jaguars put the game in the hands of their bullpen.
“That’s been this group the whole year,” said Loyola coach Doug Faust, whose Wolf Pack lost 8-2 at Southern last weekend. “We show up and play every day. We know we’re not going to get a berth in the conference tournament, but these guys appreciate playing baseball. We show up and play the game the best we can.”
The Wolf Pack (16-37) bring an 8-22 mark into its three-game series at Georgia Gwinnett College this weekend to close the season.
Southern, meanwhile, has much more baseball left to play.
The Jaguars (17-17) climbed into first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division with a sweep of Grambling this past weekend, winning two of those three games by one run. They will have a chance to wrap up a top seed for the SWAC tournament when they face Prairie View in a three-game set this weekend.
But two days after sending its fiercest rival out of town with three straight losses, Southern could not hold a 3-2 lead against Loyola entering the seventh inning.
“They caught us off a big, emotional weekend,” Southern coach Roger Cador said of the Wolf Pack. “We were a little flat.”
Southern’s first loss in five games came on a night when freshman right-hander Camilo Godoy, who has had a penchant for struggling early, skipped through the first inning on seven pitches.Godoy pitched well enough to win, surrendering only two runs — on two, two-out homers — in six innings.
Britt Pellegrin and Evan Turkish both went deep against the Christian Life graduate, Pellegrin in the second inning and Turkish in the fourth. Loyola managed only two hits, both singles, against him otherwise.
Cador likely would have stuck with Godoy to start the seventh, but his bullpen had seen little action in a series against Grambling dominated by Southern’s starting pitching.
That’s when Loyola made its run.
Pellegrin, who drew a walk by Zephan Rochelle with one out in the seventh, scored the tying run when he slid under the tag of Southern catcher Alejandro Santiago on a Nevin Brown fielder’s choice grounder. Philip Cazayoux gave the Wolf Pack the lead on a two-run double off Santos Saldivar, who had relieved Rochelle with two outs.
Bradley Brunet’s two-run double in the eighth, also off Saldivar, completed the scoring.
“We have three days to prepare for Prairie View and another emotional weekend,” Cador said. “I feel they’ll be ready to do it.”
Cazayoux, the only Loyola player with multiple hits, finished 2-for-5 with the two RBIs.
Loyola starter Daniel Posway, chased in the early innings of Saturday’s loss to Spring Hill, went the first five Tuesday. Joshua LeBoeuf got the win after pitching a scoreless sixth.
“I didn’t know he was going to go that far,” Faust said of Posway. “For him to go that many innings and give us a chance to win, that just shows the character of this group of kids.”
Southern failed to keep alive the momentum from its big weekend, but the Jaguars have good news on the injury front.
Caleb Hatcher, injured earlier this season, started at third base and went 0-for-4 in his first action in more than a month. Cador expects to have outfielder Sean Washington back in the lineup this weekend.