STARKVILLE, Miss. — Southern's first game in the Starkville regional Friday was a tough pill to swallow.
The fourth-seeded Jaguars were in position to stun Mississippi State before falling behind late and tumbling into the losers' bracket.
It was a new day Saturday — but an angry Miami team was ready to roll, and the Hurricanes ended Southern's otherwise remarkable season with a runaway 12-2 victory.
Miami attacked one of Southern’s top pitchers, Eli Finney, in the first inning, scoring four runs for an early lead that turned out to be more than enough.
The Hurricanes then piled on with an eight-run fifth inning. They were cruising 12-0 before the Jaguars scored twice in the bottom of the ninth.
It was a sour end to memorable season.
Southern — once the most powerful program in black college baseball — hadn't won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title since 2009. The Jaguars bottomed out last spring in coach Kerrick Jackson's first year, finishing 9-33.
Then came the turnaround this spring. Southern finished 32-24 overall and won its first SWAC championship in 10 years, setting what Jackson and his players believe is a foundation for a great future.
From beating crosstown LSU on April 9 to taking Mississippi State to the wire in its own stadium Friday, the Jaguars had plenty of positives to take away from the year.
Jackson said won’t be dwelling on the result of the final two games. After Saturday's loss, he reflected on the whole of the season.
“(Saturday) just wasn’t our day,” Jackson said. “I told the guys after the game that they should be able to look back now that (the) season is completed and relish in the accomplishments that they had throughout the year. You’re definitely hard-pressed to find a better one-year turnaround in baseball.”
As for Saturday's loss, Finney lasted 4⅓ innings, giving up seven hits and eight runs with five walks. Most of the damage came in the first inning before he began to settle down.
“We had a guy on the bump (Finney) who has gone out and shoved for us," Jackson said. “When he came out and it wasn’t as good as he’s been, that was a chink in the armor for us. They had those two big innings, and anytime you give up crooked numbers, it’s tough to come back from that.”
The Jaguars eventually used six relievers, including four in that eight-run fifth inning. Southern issued 13 walks in all, and the Hurricanes collected 13 hits.
Southern had just two hits until the ninth inning when it rallied with three hits and two runs before the game ended.
SU senior Javeyan Williams finished his career with two tremendous ballgames in Starkville. After going 3-for-5 on Friday, Williams was 3 for 3 to end the season, batting .414 in the No. 9 hole.
It was a season to remember for the senior who saw monumental improvements — not only in himself, but the entire team as well.
“To be one of the seniors in this class to bring back the tradition that we’ve had is really a great experience,” Williams said. “Winning the SWAC tournament was a great experience, but I’m going to take away all of the moments that we had and cherish them.”