Relief pitching came to the rescue for Southern enabling the Jaguars to clinch their Southwestern Athletic Conference series with Grambling at Lee-Hines Field.
After Jaguars pitching surrendered 10 runs in the first four innings, Southern got strong pitching over the final four innings and rallied for a 15-13 win, taking a 1½-game lead in the Western Division.
It was another highlight in a bright turnaround season for the Jaguars, who bottomed out in Kerrick Jackson’s first season last spring, finishing in the cellar.
On Saturday, the program recognized members of the 1959 team, which won the NAIA College World Series, becoming the first squad from a historically black college to win a national title.
If nothing else, the old legend were treated to an entertaining game.
Justin Freeman started but lasted only two innings after issuing five walks and giving up two hits and two runs. Markaylon Boyd came on to start the third inning and was tagged for seven hits and eight runs over the next two innings.
Trailing 11-8 after five innings, Southern pitchers John Guienze and Connor Whalen combined to limit Grambling (10-12, 7-4) to two hits and two unearned runs over the last four innings.
While Jaguars pitching cooled off the Tigers bats, Southern (13-9, 7-1) came alive. The Jaguars, who had 14 hits, scored seven runs in their final three at-bats, a stretch that featured three runs apiece in the seventh and eighth innings.
Trailing 12-9 in the bottom of the seventh, Southern took advantage of three hits, a wild pitch and an error to push across three runs.
Whalen entered the game in the top of the eighth, and retired the Tigers in order. In Southern’s half of the eighth, Hunter David’s two-run home run was the big blow as the Jaguars scored three times to take a 15-12 lead.
Grambling picked up an unearned run in the ninth. Ace Felder drew a walk off of Whalen, and scored on Isaiah Torres’ single that was mishandled by Southern left fielder Hampton Hudson.
David, who had a two-run single in the second, led Southern with four hits and five RBIs. Hudson, Tyler LaPorte and Coby Taylor each had two RBIs.
Tigers reliever Ryan Evans pitched the eighth inning for Grambling, and took the loss. Starter Jason Alvarez gave up seven runs, four earned, in 2⅔ innings.
Southern leads the series 2-0 and has scored 33 runs on 35 hits. The teams meet again at 1 p.m. Sunday.