NEW ORLEANS – Alabama State staved off a late comeback attempt by Texas Southern to claim the program’s first Southwestern Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament Championship by a score of 7-5.
The win also completes the first perfect record in conference play in the history of the league, with the Hornets amassing a 28-0 (including tournament) record against conference foes this year.
Both sides traded scoreless first innings beforeTexas Southern threatened in the second. Although consecutive walks and a hit batter by Hornets starter Angel Alicea eventually led to runners loading the bags, Alicea sat down Kamren Dukes to escape the jam.
The Hornets got their bats going in the third at the expense of TSU starter Larry Romero (6 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 K), opening the frame with back-to-back singles by Diandre Amion and Carlos Ocasio. Tournament MVP Dillon Cooper (4-for-4, 2 R) then tagged a pitch over the right field wall for a three-run homer to give ASU (38-15) the early advantage.
In the fourth, Texas Southern again put runners on first and second, but Alicea fanned Joel Rosario-Alicea and and Dukes to keep the Tigers (24-26) off the board, who stranded eight runners over the first five innings.
Alicea carried a no-hitter into the fifth, but it was broken up by a Dukes single. However, Ryan Lazo lined out into a double play to send it to the bottom of the inning, where the Hornets extended their lead with a RBI groundout from Ray Hernandez and a RBI ground-rule double from Hunter Allen.
Texas Southern got on the board with a two-run shot to right field by Blake Hicks, cutting the game to 5-2. Horace Leblanc followed with a double, and TSU eventually put runners on the corners. Alicea (6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9 K) was able to avoid further damage by striking out Lazo to end the top of the sixth inning.
Cooper followed up with a RBI double to the right center warning track that scored Yamil Pagan, but Ocasio was tagged out at the plate during the play to end the inning.
A Hicks throwing error in the seventh allowed another Hornets run to score. In the eighth, the Tigers showed some life via a solo shot by pinch-hitter Jose Cabreja off of Tyler Howe, who came in to relieve Alicea. A hit batter brought in Joseph Camacho to close the deal.
In the ninth, TSU tried to claw back into the game, getting runners on first and second. A throwing error by the Hornets’ Ray Hernandez allowed another Tigers run. Christian Sanchez followed with a RBI single that brought the Tigers within two runs, but Camacho was able to regroup and finish the save and hand the Hornets the title.
Alicea picked up the victory, improving to 3-0. Romero dropped to 9-4 on the season. The full All-Tournament Team is listed below.
2016 BASEBALL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Troy Lewis, Southern
Aderly Perez, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Jaqueese Moore, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Colin Carroll, Alcorn State
Miguel Yrigoyen, Jackson State
Cornelius Copeland, Jackson State
Robert Pearson, Texas Southern
Kamren Dukes, Texas Southern
Tyler Howe, Alabama State
Yamil Pagan, Alabama State
Eriq White, Alabama State
Dillon Cooper, Alabama State
2016 BASEBALL TOURNAMENT MVP
Dillon Cooper, Alabama State
Courtesy SWAC Media