Southern baseball coach Roger Cador never felt comfortable Friday night, not even when his team had a five-run lead over Arkansas-Pine Bluff going into the seventh inning.
As it turned out, his instincts were right.
The Jaguars’ four-game winning streak ended with a 10-9 loss to the visiting Golden Lions on Friday to start the teams’ weekend series.
“Only on the scoreboard,” Cador said about Southern’s momentum going into the seventh inning. “You have to understand your team and your opponent, and I kept feeling that we weren’t doing things good. We had opportunities to make it happen, and we didn’t. When we didn’t have the killer instinct to put them away, that made me worry.”
Pine Bluff slowly chipped away at Southern’s seemingly comfortable lead — 6-3 after five innings and 9-4 after six — throughout the back half of the game.
The Golden Lions scored seven runs on seven hits in the final four innings, setting up freshman left fielder Julian Jones to be the hero.
With one out in the top of the ninth and the Golden Lions trailing by only one, Jones stepped to the plate with a runner on first base and the added pressure of having called out his teammates for a lack of effort earlier in the game.
For the second time Friday night, Jones took the Southern pitching staff for a home run deep over the right-field wall, giving his team its 10-9 lead.
Jones started Pine Bluff’s comeback in the sixth when he hit a solo homer off Southern starter J’Markus George. The winner came off closer Troy Lewis.
“I told him, ‘The legend of Jones is just now starting,’ ” Pine Bluff coach Carlos James said. “He was the one who came into the dugout when we were down 9-3 and he called some guys out and then went up and hit the solo shot. … That’s leadership in the making.”
After going down 3-0 through the first inning, Southern stormed into the lead with six runs in the next three innings.
Second baseman Franky Montesino and catcher Jose Dela Torre both provided two-run singles in the second, while first baseman Marcus Hodge finished with four RBIs on two hits.
But Cador said the pitchers couldn’t keep up with how well the Golden Lions were swinging the bat.
George finished with seven runs and nine hits in 6.2 innings. Three of his runs were unearned, though, after shortstop Robinson Mateo couldn’t field a ball in the seventh.
“We did not pitch well,” Cador said. “J’Markus, even though he didn’t walk a bunch of people, the pitches were up, he was behind and the defense let him down. When we made that error in the seventh inning and they scored the three runs …. and then we hit the weakest hitter in the lineup, I knew we were in trouble.”
The teams complete the series with a Saturday doubleheader slated to start at noon.