MONTGOMERY – The Alabama State baseball team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division title with a doubleheader sweep of Alabama A&M Saturday at the Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex.
The Hornets won game one 11-1 in seven innings, and game two 6-2 to win the division title for the first time since 1994. Alabama State will be the number one divisional seed in the SWAC Tournament beginning May 14 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“It is important to win the division and get a number one seed, whether you have the bye or not,” said head coach Mervyl Melendez, whose team has now posted back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time in school history. “You are setting the tone and meeting the expectations you have as a team and the goals you have set. We still have a lot of work to do. Winning the division is part of what we wanted to do, but we still have a game tomorrow that we really need to concentrate on.”
Game three of the Hornets-Bulldogs series is Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex.
Game 1 – Hornets 11, Alabama A&M 1: The Bulldogs had two runners on with one out in the top of the first, but T.J. Renda pitched out of the jam without allowing a run.
In the bottom of the inning, the first eight Hornets reached base en route to a seven-run inning that set the tone for the day.
Cesar Rivera and Richard Gonzalez walked to start the inning. Waldyvan Estrada doubled down the left field line to score Rivera. Emmanuel Marrero then doubled to right center to score Gonzalez for a 2-0 Hornet lead. Branden Castro then hit an infield single, scoring Estrada. Dexter Price followed with a single through the right side, scoring Marrero to extend to a 4-0 lead. Marcus Swint singled to shortstop to load the bases, and Raul Perez’ fielder’s choice grounder scored Castro. Einar Muniz’ sacrifice fly scored Price, and Rivera’s sacrifice fly scored Swint for a 7-0 Alabama State lead.
“We did a magnificent job in setting the tone,” Melendez said. “The guys were eager to get back on the field to rectify what happened in during the mid-week games. The key was really T.J. getting out of the first inning jam. He pitched very well, got the strikeout to end the inning, and that was very important.”
Leading 8-1, the Hornets ended the game with a three-run seventh. Muniz, Rivera, Gonzalez and Estrada walked to lead off the inning, scoring Muniz. Marrero then singled to shortstop, scoring Rivera. Castro’s single to left field scored Gonzalez for the final margin.
Renda (5-3) threw his fourth complete game of the season, allowing only five singles and one run, with two walks and four strikeouts, throwing 62 of his 94 pitches for strikes. Every Hornet starter had a hit, RBI or run scored, led by Swint’s career-high three-hit game. Marrero, Castro, and Price each had two hits, scored one run, and combined to drive in five runs.
Game 2 – Hornets 6, Alabama A&M 2: Camacho improved to 8-1 on the season, winning his sixth straight decision, and Estrada and Marrero each drove in two runs as the Hornets improved to 10-0 in the second game of doubleheaders this season.
Camacho went eight innings, allowed seven hits, two runs, walked four and struck out five. He induced three double plays in the game.
The Hornets took advantage of first-inning walks to score in the first inning. Rivera and Gonzalez walked, and Estrada singled to center field to load the bases. Marrero’s sacrifice fly to right, scored Rivera. With two outs, Swint walked to force home Gonzalez for a 2-0 Alabama State lead.
Leading 2-1 in the fourth, the Hornets scored four times on a two-out rally. Perez singled down the left field line, Muniz was hit by a pitch, and Rivera walked to load the bases. Gonzalez walked to force home Perez. Estrada then singled through the left side, scoring Muniz and Rivera, advancing Gonzalez to second. Marrero then singled to right field, scoring Gonzalez for a 6-1 Alabama State lead.
“Both were magnificent today,” said Melendez of his starting pitchers. “T.J. is getting stronger as the season as gone on. He had been steady the first two years but now he is getting better, and I’m glad to see him bounce back and be himself again after the slow start. Joe has done a great job the entire year. He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he battled and gave us great innings.”
Courtesy: Alabama State Athletics