In his final appearance at Lee-Hines Field, Southern senior shortstop Malik Blaise didn’t quite go by the script he would have written.
But he got the message across.
Blaise chopped a single through the left side of the infield in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday, driving in the tying and winning runs as Southern won its regular-season home finale 6-5 over Nicholls State.
“Coach said just get a good pitch to drive,” said Blaise, a four-year letterman on a winning Southern team for the first time this season. “I got that pitch but I didn’t drive it, and I just so happened to get enough of it to get it through the hole. It was a pretty hard-hit ball, and I knew it was going to get through.”
The Jaguars (26-19) rallied after letting a nearly game-long lead slip away in the eighth and ninth innings. Nicholls got a pinch-hit two-run double by Dillon Belle in the eighth and a sacrifice fly by Austin France in the ninth to erase a 3-1 Southern lead.
Southern trailed 5-3 going into its last at-bat, but Coby Taylor drew a leadoff walk and Zavier Moore was hit by a pitch to put the tying runs on. Tyler LaPorte’s attempted sacrifice bunt turned into a single to load the bases, and Javeyan Williams hit a sacrifice fly to center field to cut the lead to 5-4 off Beau Balado, the Colonels’ third pitcher of the inning.
Ashanti Wheatley was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a double-play situation, but Blaise swung hard at Balado’s second pitch and got it into left field as the winning run scored easily.
“With our athleticism and the way we run, we have guys that can put the ball in play and drive the gaps up and down the order,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to believe we can get it done in those situations.”
Jackson employed a one-pitcher-per-inning strategy to get his staff ready for a big weekend series at Prairie View, and it worked well — until he moved the hard-throwing LaPorte in from third to pitch the eighth. LaPorte hit two batters and surrendered the go-head double to Belle with two outs.
“We had some guys that haven’t pitched in a while so, ‘Hey let’s run these guys out an inning at a time, get everybody an inning of work knowing we’ve got this weekend.' We’re going to need all hands on deck. Let’s get those guys in there.
“Tyler is a hard thrower, and he hadn’t been in that situation before. I wanted to let him finish the inning and walk off with the three outs.”
The visitors jumped ahead with a run in the first inning off starter Justin Freeman. Ethan Valdez hit Freeman’s first pitch for a single and later scored on a base hit by by Brady Bell.
Southern answered quickly to take the lead for good. Williams, batting in the No. 2 spot for the first time this season, hit a one-out triple to center field and scored Wheatley’s triple to right-center. Wheatley later scored on a passed ball by Nicholls catcher Chris Sandberg.
Southern tacked on another run in the third inning when Moore led off with a walk and moved to second on a one-out walk to Williams. Wheatley singled to load the bases and Moore scored on a sacrifice fly to short center field by shortstop Blaise.
“We have a grit; we know when there are outs left on the board, we have a chance and get after it, just like the start of the game,” Blaise said. “We’re at the top but we still want to progress.”