The Southern baseball team entered its weekend series against Grambling having lost five consecutive games to drop to 3-15 overall and 2-6 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Three games and three victories later, the Jaguars’ season looks like it might be changing course.
Coach Roger Cador cautioned afterward that he wants to see the improvement sustained for longer than one series, but the weekend was a good start.
Tyler Kirksey and Jose de la Torre homered, and Tyler Robinson rebounded from a poor outing Tuesday to pitch 8.2 solid innings as Southern completed the series sweep with a 4-3 victory at Lee-Hines Field.
Sunday’s victory in Southern’s first one-run game this season came on the heels of 10-1 and 9-6 victories Saturday and gave the Jaguars their first SWAC series sweep in two years. The last one came when Grambling visited April 20-21, 2013.
“It wouldn’t be fair to them if I didn’t tell them I’m happy with what we were able to accomplish this weekend,” Cador said. “The fact that we haven’t done it in two years tells you it’s difficult to accomplish.”
Robinson lasted just an inning against Jackson State on Tuesday, allowing five hits and four runs, three earned.
Cador said Jackson State made Robinson pay for getting several pitches up. Robinson’s control wasn’t sharp at the outset Sunday, either, but he worked through it.
“This time he was missing low,” Cador said. “If he had been up again, it would have been a bigger concern.”
Grambling scored two in the fifth to take its first lead of the series. Angel Peguero had a one-out single, and Robinson hit Larry Barraza with a pitch. Dylan Spearman doubled home the first run, and Robert Lopez’s grounder brought home Robinson for a 3-2 Grambling lead.
“I started a little rocky today,” Robinson said, “but I kind of found a groove after the fifth.”
Southern came right back in the bottom half. Lance Jones led off with a walk, went to third on Marcus Tomlin’s single and scored on de la Torre’s sacrifice fly.
The Jaguars regained the lead in the sixth when Theo Smith led off with a triple and went home on Robinson Mateo’s sacrifice fly.
After Edwin Drexler started the seventh by reaching on third baseman Rivers’ Frederick’s error, Robinson retired the next three batters.
Robinson (1-1) yielded a one-out single and a two-out walk in the eighth before getting pinch hitter Tray Ball on a fly ball to the warning track in center.
Closer Rafael Diaz was warmed up, but Cador sent Robinson out to start the ninth against the top of the order. Robinson is better at holding runners, and Cador didn’t want Diaz on the mound if either potential base stealer reached.
Robinson got the first two, then gave up a single to Barraza. Diaz came in to get the final out for his third save.
“Before the inning started, (pitching coach Dan Canevari) told me what the situation was,” Diaz said. “So I was ready when I went in. I was just focused on getting the final out because this was a big win for us.”
Southern grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first as Kirksey led off with a home run to center and, one out later, de la Torre homered to left.
“After the way we hit (Saturday), we were confident coming in today,” de la Torre said. “We wanted to get off to a fast start.”
Grambling cut the lead in half in the second when Yariel Medina singled home Lopez.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.