Yogi Berra would have called it déjà vu all over again.
The Southern baseball team took a one-run lead into the eighth inning Sunday afternoon, but the bullpen and the defense couldn’t hold it. Texas Southern scored three runs in the inning and completed a three-game sweep with a 6-5 victory at Lee-Hines Field.
The Tigers (13-13, 7-5 Southwestern Athletic Conference) won the series opener 13-5 on Friday after taking advantage of the Jaguars bullpen and error-prone defense to erase a one-run deficit entering the eighth. Southern (8-17, 3-8) visits LSU on Tuesday.
The Jaguars have lost two other games in which they relinquished the lead in the seventh, one in which they lost the lead in the eighth and two others in which they were tied entering the seventh.
“If we only had to play seven innings ...” Southern coach Roger Cador said without finishing his sentence. “Right now we’re just not in a position to close games out. It’s a growing pain.”
The Jaguars had just taken a 4-3 lead when freshman left-hander Bryan Melendez (0-2), who relieved starter Josh Sparks and got an inning-ending double-play grounder in the seventh, walked the first two batters in the eighth.
Cador, who resisted going to closer Troy Lewis with six outs to go Friday, turned to him this time. Freshman Franky Montesino took Lewis’ place at third base.
Pinch hitter Jose Cabreja bunted toward third, and Montesino threw wildly over first; both runners scored, and Cabreja reached third.
“(Montesino) had more time than he thought,” Cador said. “You patch a hole in one area and it leaks in another.”
Ryan Lazo’s single brought home Cabreja with an insurance run that proved decisive. Robinson Mateo reached third leading off the Southern ninth when Lazo dropped his drive to deep center; he came home on Ashanti Wheatley’s groundout.
Southern took the lead by scoring twice in the seventh. With one out, Wheatley had an infield single and stole second before D’Andre Williams was hit by a pitch.
Robert Pearson relieved starter Ryan Rios (3-2) and yielded a two-run double to John Pope.
As Pearson was warming up, Southern pitching coach Dan Canevari gave Pope a quick scouting report on Pearson. After fouling off a slider, Pope got the fastball he was looking for and drove it off the wall in left, giving the Jaguars a short-lived lead.
“We’re just a few outs away,” Pope said. “It’s mind-blowing how it keeps happening.”
Pearson finished for his fifth save.
TSU took a 1-0 lead in the third when Lazo led off with a walk, stole second, went to third on Kamren Dukes’ sacrifice and scored on Richard Alamo’s groundout.
Southern responded by taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom half. Javeayan Williams doubled, Lewis was hit by a pitch and Mateo singled home Williams with the tying run. Lewis advanced on Alamo’s error at second, and Pope reached on an infield single as Lewis scored the go-ahead run.
The Tigers regained the lead in the fourth when Horace LeBlanc walked and Blake Hicks hit his second home run of the season.
The Jaguars squandered a scoring opportunity in the sixth. Anthony Valdes led off with a double, D’Andre Williams was hit by a pitch and Valdes stole second before Malik Blaise sacrificed Williams to second. But Javeayan Williams grounded back to the mound, and Lewis flied to right.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.