As a star quarterback at Lutcher High School, Gavin Webster said he always wanted the ball in his hands when crunch time arrived.
That may explain why Webster, now a sophomore outfielder on the Southern baseball team, had a grin on his face Saturday after Grambling put Derrick Hopkins on with an intentional walk in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Lee-Hines Field, bringing Webster to the plate with two on and one out.
“He gave me that smile before he went to bat,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “That smile he gave me is one I’ve seen so many times on clutch players.”
Webster delivered a double halfway up the high wall in center field, easily scoring Brian Rowry from second to give Southern a 3-2 win in 11 innings.
That, combined with a 2-1 win in Saturday’s opener, sent Southern away with a doubleheader sweep to start the three-game series.
The Jaguars — who entered the weekend having lost their last two Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division series — can clinch a spot in next month’s SWAC tournament by completing a sweep of Grambling on Sunday.
The weekend finale is set for 3 p.m. The teams will once again wear Negro League throwback uniforms.
“A lot of people are talking about how coach Cador is over the hill and the team is not that good,” Cador said. “We’re playing in a good division. Everybody’s equal. Everybody’s playing quality baseball.”
Webster’s heroics finished a day when the Southern starting pitching was as brilliant as the weather.
Senior left-hander Jesse “Doc” Holiday got the win in the first game, keeping Grambling scoreless the first seven innings. Junior right-hander Jose De Leon went 10 innings in the second game, holding Grambling scoreless in nine of those innings and allowing the Tigers just one hit.
SOUTHERN 2, GRAMBLING 1: Holiday went 7.1 innings for the second start in a row, once again keeping his opponent without an earned run. He struck out 11 and walked one.
Grambling’s lone score came in the eighth when Edwin Drexler, who had advanced to third on an error by Tyler Kirksey in left field, scored on Darren Farmer’s sacrifice fly. Santos Saldivar had just replaced Holiday on the mound.
“I was able to establish the strike zone early in the game,” Holiday said. “Once I got ahead in the count, I just worked on throwing breaking balls, which is my out pitch.”
Holiday worked into the eighth inning of a 1-0 shutout to open the Texas Southern series last weekend.
Saturday, he again got just enough offense from Southern to secure his fifth win.
The Jaguars went ahead 1-0 on a groundout by Marcus Tomlin that scored Jeremy Lopez from third, then took a 2-0 lead when Hopkins connected in the seventh for his third homer of the year.
Kevin Williams went 3-for-4 with a double.
SOUTHERN 3, GRAMBLING 2, 11 INNINGS: With first base open and one out, Grambling hoped to set up the double play by walking Hopkins to get to Webster.
The Tigers got a far different result.
Webster, sidelined earlier this season by shoulder and hamstring injuries, crushed Grambling reliever Zach Moreau’s two-ball, one-strike fastball to the deepest part of the ballpark. As he arrived at second base, the former Louisiana Mr. Football was engulfed by celebrating teammates.
“When it’s crunch time, I’d rather me with the bat,” Webster said. “Just like playing quarterback, I’d rather me with the ball.”
De Leon gave up two unearned runs in the top of the eighth as the defense behind him committed three errors, but the Jaguars bounced back to tie the game on a two-run single by Williams in the bottom half.
Moreau helped Grambling avert further damage out of the bullpen, then held Southern without a hit for the next two innings.
The Jaguars finally broke through against the GSU reliever when Rowry stroked a one-out double in the 11th, bringing Hopkins to bat with first base empty and setting the stage for Webster’s winning hit.