Southern designated hitter Troy Lewis was upset when his towering three-run home run in the fifth inning was ruled foul Thursday against Grambling State.
Lewis made up for it in his next at-bat, hitting a two-run double in the seventh that sealed Southern’s 6-3 victory on the second day of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament at Wesley Barrow Stadium.
“I kind of feel like I gave in with (the home run) at-bat,” Lewis said. “The next at-bat, with runners in scoring position, I really wanted to come through, especially since we had those other runs taken from us.”
Lewis’ double came with Southern leading 4-3. It drove home catcher D’Andre Williams and shortstop Phillip Williams, both of whom had singled.
The victory sends the Jaguars (13-31) into another elimination game at noon Friday against the overall No. 1 seed, Alabama State. The Hornets crushed Southern 27-9 on Wednesday in an opening-day game.
Cador said he planned to start Lewis on Friday, though Lewis came in to get the final two outs against Grambling.
“Today really showed the character of this young team,” Jaguars coach Roger Cador said. “After really being demolished and humiliated to a degree (Wednesday), they came back and played steady, almost errorless baseball. I’m extremely proud of this group of young kids for not quitting.”
The way right-hander Daniel Franklin was pitching, the extra two runs put the Jaguars in commanding position.
Franklin allowed seven hits in 8.1 innings before running out of gas and walking two batters. Lewis came in and got the final two outs on a foul and a strikeout.
“I was getting them out with my fastball a lot,” Franklin said. “I was just locating it in and keeping it at the knees. But everybody did their jobs. We just have to keep leaving it all out on the field.”
Franklin did his best job against the heart of the Tigers’ lineup, holding No. 3 hitter Daniel Barnett (0-for-3), cleanup hitter Larry Barraza (0-for-4) and fifth-hole hitter Tray Bell (0-for-3) from doing any damage.
“When the middle of your lineup goes 0-for-10, that’s a recipe for disaster and why you’re going to lose a ball game,” said Tigers coach James Cooper, his team eliminated from the tournament and having lost its seventh consecutive game.
Another disaster recipe for Grambling State (22-27) began early on the mound. Starting pitcher Issac O’Bear hit seven batsmen during the first four innings. That played big part in the Jaguars taking a four-run lead.
With the bases loaded in the first, O’Bear hit Anthony Valdes with a pitch, bringing in Robinson Mateo, who had walked. D’Andre Williams, who went 3-for-3, then singled to left field, plating first baseman John Pope and center fielder Ashanti Wheatley.
The Jaguars made it 4-0 in the second when O’Bear hit left fielder Dondrayas Harris with the bases loaded, scoring Phillip Williams.
Grambling scored two runs in the third on Alexander Felder’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Barnett. However, the Tigers never tied the score, and Lewis’ double took away any pressure of holding a one-run lead.
Cador gathered his Jaguars after the game and gave an impassioned talk, the victory coming against a team that had gone 1-5 against Grambling.
“He told us he was impressed with the way we competed,” Lewis said. “We’ve had our downs this season, for sure. He was happy to see us put on a performance like this. But it all started with (Franklin).”
As for the home run/foul ball, SWAC director of officials Mike Fagan spoke with several sources and also viewed tape from two television stations covering the game. Nothing was conclusive.
Cooper, however, said “it clearly was a home run.”
“It hit the foul pole then richoted off the gray fence behind it, which I think threw everybody off,” Cooper said. “But it was a home run.”