Through two weather delays and two Alabama State rallies, the Southern Jaguars persevered Thursday night at Wesley Barrow Stadium.
When Pitcher Santo Salvidar struck out Alabama State’s P.J. Harris with Waldyvan Estrada on second base, the Jaguars prevailed, getting a hard-fougth 13-12 victory on the second day of the Southwestern Athletic Conference baseball tournament.
Southern (19-22) will play at 3 p.m. Friday against the winner of the day’s first game between Alabama State (31-18), the No. 1 seed in the East Divison, and Jackson State, who play at 9 a.m.
If the Jaguars win that game Friday afternoon, they’ll head straight to Sunday’s championship game.
“We never gave in,” coach Roger Cador said. “We gave the lead up a couple of times, but we kept coming back. And Santos dug deep when he really had to. We got a lot a big hits tonight, too.”
Southern took its final lead when D.J. Wallace doubled home Sergio Torres from first base with one out in the top of the 10th.
The Jaguars banged out 19 hits but could not shake Alabama State. Rivers Frederick Wallace and center fielder Lance Jones each had three RBIs for Southern. And reliever Rafeal Diaz held the Hornets to one hit in two innings to slow them down before Santos entered in the seventh.
The Jaguars appeared on the verge of advancing when they headed into the ninth with a 12-9 lead. Jones seemingly having applied the exclamation point with a towering two-out solo homer in the top of the inning. And Southern had Salvidar on the mound, and he had silenced Alabama State in relief the previous two innings.
However, just as they had done in the fourth inning, the Hornets came back to tie the score. Alabama State’s Cesar Rivera hit a bases-loaded single with two out for the final two runs.
Southern had overcame a 9-8 deficit with a three-run seventh. It started with Gavin Webster’s one-out double off the glove of Alabama State center fielder. He scored on a grounder by Robinson Mateo. Then, after the second wild pitch of the inning by Alabama State’s Charles Taylor advanced Sergio Torres to third and Mateo to second, Lance Thomas singled past shortstop, plating both.
Alabama State argued interference on Mateo, but the umpires conferred and determined that was not the case.
Then, for the second consecutive game, Cador turned to pitcher Salvidar.
The action had started hot and heavy early on.
Coming back after the first 30-minute weather delay, Southern showed urgency in trying to beat the rain and the Hornets. The Jaguars scored three runs in the second inning, with third baseman Rivers Frederick hitting a two-out, two-run-scoring single.
In the fourth, the Jaguars came back better. Ignited by Gavin Webster’s triple leading off the inning, Southern scored five runs on five hits as it appeared to be building an insurmountable lead. Most impressive, three hits, playing four runs, came with two out, the biggest a two-run double to left-center by D.J. Wallace.
Then, the unexpected occurred, especially the way Southern’s James Fontenot was pitching. In the bottom of the inning, eight consecutive Hornets reached base, six on hits. Among them were back-to-back doubles Waldyvan Estrada and Chris Biocic, with P.J. Harris hitting another one after an infield hit by Yamil Pagan.
And, all that was before the second out. By the time the inning had ended, Alabama State stunningly had stormed back to tie the score at 8.