Sundays in the Southwest Athletic Conference baseball season belong to Southern University.
After scratching and clawing to split a rain-forced Saturday doubleheader with Texas Southern, the Jaguars' big bats took over to clinch the series with a 16-6 run-rule victory in seven innings at Lee-Hines Field in one of the state's only games to be played on Easter Sunday.
Bobby Johnson knocked in four runs with a pair of hits and Tyler LaPorte had a single, double and a triple, scoring five runs and driving in two as the Jaguars (24-16, 14-3 SWAC) clinched a spot in the conference tournament. Southern is unbeaten on Sundays in league play.
“It’s whoever is going to be the most competitive and the most locked in is going to win,” Southern coach Kerrick Jackson said of the series-deciding game. “That’s (TSU) a quality ball club. They’re very disciplined. Coach Rob (Mike Robertson) makes sure they play the game the right way. They’re not going to give you anything; you have to beat them. They’ve got guys in the lineup that can change the game with one swing of the bat.”
Southern had to come from behind twice in 12 innings to win Saturday's opener and dropped the second game after leading 3-0. The teams went back and forth Sunday until Southern poured it on the depleted TSU pitching staff, which allowed 13 hits, 11 walks and two hit batters.
Southern’s improving pitching staff had some shaky moments but managed to right the ship. Winning pitcher John Guinze went the first 4 2/3 innings but couldn’t quite finish the fifth. After getting the first two outs, he issued a walk and three consecutive hits as Southern’s 7-2 lead shrunk to 7-5.
Southern’s four pitchers walked only three batters combined.
“(Guinze) had missed some starts and had a concussion early in the season,” Jackson said. “We’re slowly trying to get him back. We’ll get a big lead and put it into coast mode. We’ve got to understand how to go about finishing teams and making sure we play the game all the way. It’s something we’re learning to do. Against a good team, they aren’t going to quit until you make them quit.”
The Jaguars spent most of the weekend without their top hitter, catcher-first baseman Hunter David, who re-injured his hamstring running out an infield hit early in Saturday’s opener. He wasn’t missed Sunday.
Johnson, who moved behind the plate in place of David, ripped a double that hit third base and popped straight into the air to score two runs in the first inning as Southern built a 5-0 advantage. Johnson later finished the game via the mercy rule with a two-run single in the seventh.
Texas Southern (12-28, 8-10) started climbing back into the game on solo home runs by Christian Sanchez, his second of the series, and Oscar Ponce in the fourth inning. Tyson Thompson, who had the game winning-hit Saturday, had two hits and two RBIs.