Even before the ninth inning of the series finale against Prairie View on Sunday, Southern baseball coach Roger Cador felt the game was starting to slip out of his team’s grasp.
Clinging to a two-run lead heading into the ninth and buoyed by a pair of two-run homers by John Pope, the Jaguars hadn't had enough quality at-bats, Cador said. And Southern already had committed three errors.
So when the Panthers scored four runs in the ninth, aided by two more Southern errors, Cador couldn’t put all the blame on one inning for his team's 8-6 loss at Lee-Hines Field.
“It’s tough,” Cador said. “To me, we lost the game before (the ninth inning). That’s just when (Prairie View) went ahead. Those five errors, those bad at-bats that we had, that’s where the game was lost."
Prairie View (6-18, 3-3 SWAC) tagged Southern pitcher Harold Myles for three runs on four hits in the first two innings. But Myles blanked the Panthers over his next four innings, relying on a defense that has often been a sore spot for the Jaguars (4-11, 2-6).
Myles’ scoreless innings paved the way for Pope’s two-run blasts in the fifth and sixth, both of which sailed over the left-field wall. The fifth-inning homer tied the score at 3, and the Jaguars took the lead in the inning on Jacob Juge’s RBI double.
“I thought we had all the momentum in the world at that point, especially after the second (home run),” Pope said. “I thought we had it. We just couldn’t hold on to the end.”
Myles was lifted for reliever J’Markus George after Myles surrendered a single and a walk to start the seventh, and the lefty escaped with only one run allowed. Cador turned to closer Troy Lewis with two on and two outs in the eighth, and Lewis induced a fly out to end the inning.
But Lewis couldn’t hold on to the lead in the ninth. Corbin Jamison led off with a standup triple. Two batters later, Cody Den Beste lifted a sacrifice fly to center to make it a one-run game. Tyrone Thomas’ RBI single through the left side brought home Jefferson from third base and tied the score at 6.
The Jaguars defense then began to falter. Jalyn Baker, who pinch-ran for Thomas, scored on a passed ball. Carson Lee, who reached on a fielding error by Malik Blaise, scored on a throwing error by Robinson Mateo.
“From my point of view, it all starts with me,” Lewis said. “I can’t walk (one) with a two-run lead in the ninth. I’ll take responsibility for that. We’ve got to make plays. But at the same time, if I don’t walk (one) in the ninth with a two-run lead, this wouldn’t even be a conversation.”