With the SWAC West Division title within its grasp, Southern didn’t just get off to a fast start, it threw a knockout punch against Alcorn State on Thursday.
Second baseman Jovante Dorris capped a nine-run first inning with a grand slam as the Jaguars rocked the visiting Braves 21-2 at Lee-Hines Field in a game shortened to seven innings by the mercy rule.
The victory allowed Southern (22-29, 19-9 SWAC) to move into first place with two games to play by virtue of Prairie View’s 12-2 loss at Texas Southern, which is tied with Prairie View; Grambling is one game back at 18-10.
Jaguars starter Joseph Battaglia (8-4) blew the Braves away with a five-pitch first inning. Battaglia went four innings for the win while getting some rest in preparation for next week’s SWAC tournament, allowing one earned run on two hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
“We came out and got some hits early, swung the bats productively,” Southern coach Chris Crenshaw said. “Big Joe gave us a good start; that’s all you can ask for. They were locked in; we had a really good (batting practice).
“They feel it’s in their grasp. We talk about it, and I could tell they are getting up, something to be pumped up about.”
Southern wasted no time getting on the board with the first five batters hitting safely. Jaylen Armstrong, Dorris and O’Neill Burgos singled for a 2-0 lead with an error mixed in. Tremaine Spears tripled off the left-center field fence to bring in another run and JJ Rollon scored Spears with a base hit.
Alcorn starter Tyler Daniels (0-4), making his first appearance in league play, retired Nathaniel Lai for the first out but walked three of the next four hitters to force in one run. Dorris then hit a 2-0 pitch from Davis over the left-center field fence for his seventh homer.
“It really did feel good. Best feeling in the world,” said Dorris, who had three hits, including a run-scoring single. “One hit led to another; it was contagious. I’ve been swinging at better pitches lately. I was looking for a fastball, something I could hit hard."
The Jaguars poured it on with another run in the second on Taj Porter’s run-scoring double and got a two-run single by Rollon and a two-run double by Lai in a six-run third. By the fifth inning, Crenshaw had replaced every starter in the batting order as Alcorn reliever Brandon Dunn walked seven batters to push across four more runs without benefit of a hit.
JJ Rollon had two hits and knocked in three runs. Southern had 12 hits and 10 players knocked in at least one run.
Khalil Smith had two hits and scored two runs for Alcorn (2-37, 2-26). Diego Lopez-Molina had the only RBI.
Caleb Washington allowed one run in three innings of relief after Battaglia set the tone. He has won six of his eight series opening SWAC starts.
“My last start against Alcorn they hit me around a little bit,” Battaglia said. “This time I wanted to decrease the hits and runs. I was working the fastball in and out and it was working really well.
“I definitely could have gone longer, but four innings going into the SWAC tournament is perfect for me. Hopefully I can bring it to the tournament. I’ve worked hard to be at my best at this time of year. The offense is really starting to turn it on.”