Grambling kicked off the 2015 MLB Urban Invitational with a 6-1 victory over rival Southern at Wesley Barrow Stadium on Friday afternoon.
With the tournament being held in New Orleans for the first time in its eight-year existence, it appeared the two teams were going to start the invitational with an old-school pitching duel, but the Tigers (2-3) reeled off all six of their runs during the sixth and seven innings to pull away from Southern (1-1) for good.
“Even though this doesn’t count as a conference game, it’s still a huge win for us,” Grambling coach James Cooper said. “Anytime you can beat your rival in anything, you want to go out and play your best game.”
“Grambling stayed aggressive and stayed with the basic approach,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “I would like to see our guys take some of the same approach that they did.”
Both teams went without a run for the first five innings, but the Grambling bats finally came to life in the bottom of the sixth.
After Southern pitcher Joseph Sanchez (0-1) loaded the bases by hitting two batters and walking the next, Grambling center fielder Edwin Drexler cracked a triple over the head of the Southern right fielder to give Grambling a 3-0 lead.
After Roger Diaz’s seventh-inning double to right field put one more run on the board for the Tigers, Drexler came up again with the bases loaded and singled to center field, giving Grambling a 6-1 lead.
“It happens even in the big leagues,” Cador said. “Pitchers relax when they get two outs and they think they’re out of trouble. (Former major league pitcher) Dave Stewart has told our pitchers that so many times. Give credit to Grambling. They got two-out hits on us in back-to-back innings.”
Drexler finished the game 2-of-4 with four RBIs and a run scored.
“I had to overcome adversity,” Drexler said. “I struck out in my first two at-bats, but my teammates were depending on me, so I had to come through in a big moment. Coach told me to be patient and wait on my pitch, and when I got it, I took advantage of it.”
The Tigers didn’t need their bats to come alive until late in the game because they got a masterful pitching performance from Andre Wilson. The junior got his first career win, going seven innings, allowing six hits, one earned run and striking out seven.
“We took some terrible at-bats, which I was concerned we would, just from watching them before,” Cador said. “I know young people think they’re better than what they are sometimes, and then they find out they’re not quite as good. ... The Grambling pitchers gave them a good indication they need to work a little harder.”
Southern’s only run of the game came in the top of the seventh after infielder Marcus Hodge smacked a one-run double off the left-field wall to bring in a runner.
The Jaguars had an opportunity to cut into the lead, but ended the inning leaving two runners on base.
“We want people to know and the kids to know that with this young team, especially with us not being able to go to the NCAA tournament, that we’ll take some lumps and we’ll use this as a learning year, and hopefully we’ll get better as we go down the road,” Cador said.