Grambling State opened a critical Southwestern Athletic Conference series versus Southern with a thrilling 5-4 win but dropped the second game 3-1 on Saturday afternoon in Grambling.
In game one, a five-run third inning highlighted by junior outfielder Brent Smithâ€™s grand slam combined with a clutch pitching performance from Mario Jefferson catapulted GSU (9-11, 7-4 SWAC) past SU (7-8, 6-2 SWAC) in the opener.
Southern ace Chase Richard retired GSUâ€™s first seven batters but ran into trouble in the bottom of the third as the bases were loaded after issuing a walk to GSUâ€™s Brandon Williams and back-to-back singles by Walter Roquemore and Joseph Sam. With the bases loaded and Southern on the ropes, Brent Smith delivered the early blow with the grand slam to left for an early 4-0 lead. Two batters later, GSU moved ahead 5-0 after Mychal Roby doubled home shortstop Manny Kumar from first.
The Jaguars fought back to open the fourth and provided several offensive highlights of their own as they scored three runs to trim its deficit to 5-3. However, the contest quickly shifted back to the pitchers over the next three innings as both Jefferson and Richard kept the opposing lineups off-balance with an assortment of pitches.
With GSU up 5-3 entering the seventh and final frame, Southern once again made things interesting as they closed to within 5-4 on an RBI single by third baseman Romey Bracey with one out. Jefferson forced SUâ€™s James Armstrong to pop out for the inningâ€™s second out but the potential tying run was moved to third after Jefferson threw a wild pitch. However, Jefferson and the GSU defense came up big after the threat as SUâ€™s Ryan Lambert grounded out to end the game.
Jefferson (3-2) struck out five in a complete game effort for the Tigers while Richard (2-1) fanned six in six innings of work. Smith led the GSU offense with four RBIs and a hit while Calvin Anderson, Armstrong and Frazier Hall each posted two hits for Southern.
Southern took an early three-run lead and used a solid mound performance from Jarrett Maloy to capture a 3-1 win in game two.
Frazier Hall homered to right with two outs in the first to give SU an early 1-0 margin. Three innings later, the Jaguars loaded the bases and upped its advantage to 3-0 after RBIs from Michael Gavion and DeMario Ellis. The Tigers trimmed Southernâ€™s margin to 3-1 in the fifth after Brandon Williams recorded an RBI triple to left. However, that would be as close as they would draw as Maloy recorded his third win of the season.
Gramblingâ€™s Ronald Marshall (3-1) dropped his first decision of the year while Williams led GSUâ€™s offense with two hits and an RBI.
Both teams return to the diamond with a 1 p.m. rubber match at Tiger Stadium on Sunday.