After two regular-season losses to Jackson State, Southern coach Roger Cador felt left-hander J’Markus George could limit the free-swinging Tigers in the first game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference baseball tournament.
George held Jackson State to three earned runs on six hits in eight innings, and Southern beat the two-time reigning tournament champions 10-5 on Wednesday at Wesley Barrow Stadium.
Southern will play at 3 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 1 East seed Alabama State and No. 4 West seed Prairie View.
“We felt they have three tough left-handed batters in their lineup, they’re a fast team and he holds runners on really well,” Cador said. “J’Markus George performed well, and we hit the ball.”
Southern pounded 15 hits, with second baseman Marcus Tomlin going 3-for-4 and scoring two runs and catcher Jose de la Torre going 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Center fielder Lance Jones also drove in two runs with a big double in the sixth.
George held Jackson State without a run until first baseman Tilur Smith led off the fifth with a triple and scored on a groundout.
That gave Southern time to figure Jackson State starter Alexander Juday’s off-speed pitches. The Jaguars had taken a 3-0 lead in the third. Robinson Mateo scored from third on JSU catcher Jovany Felipe’s throw to second attempting to stop Jones from stealing second. Jones later scored on Rivers Frederick’s fly to center field, and Tyler Kirksey came in on a fly to right by D.J. Wallace.
“I just tried to work hard, work on finishing and winning every inning,” George said.
Jackson State came back, but Southern responded each time.
The Tigers cut it to 4-2 the sixth when second baseman Melvin Rodriguez doubled in shortstop Gary Rodriguez, who reached base when Frederick fielded his grounder but threw badly to first.
However, Jones hit his two-run double in the bottom of the inning, scoring Gavin Webster and Mateo and chasing Juday from the mound.
Jackson State came to 7-5 in the seventh with the aid of throwing error by Jaguars first baseman Sergio Torres.
George responded with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Southern bounced back in the botttom of the inning in a fashion Cador said before the game would be key to its chances in the tournament. The Jaguars bunched together four consecutive two-out singles — by Tomlin, Wallace, de la Torre and Webster — in taking a 10-5 lead.
With his team not making the SWAC tournament last season, Cador took no chances. Smith led off the ninth with a walk for Jackson State, then Cador brought in ace right-hander Santos Salvidar.
Salvidar, who set a school record with 104 strikeouts this season, fanned the first two batters then induced a forceout at second.