The Texas Southern baseball team started off a pivotal SWAC series on the right foot as they defeated Southern University 7-2 behind a solid pitching performance from starter Kam Fields and the support presided by the offense.
The Tigers quickly took control of the contest when designated hitter Roderick Coffee, who returned to action after more than one month of inactivity, drew a bases-loaded walk in his first at-bat from Southern’s Wilhelm Allen to punch in his team’s first run. Immediately afterward, outfielder Tyson Thompson grounded to second base for a forceout which permitted first baseman Oscar Ponce to swipe the plate and tally TSU’s lead up to 2-0.
Southern fought back not long after in the top of the third and made it a 2-1 game with designated hitter O’Neill Burgos hitting a solo home run to left field. Even so, in the bottom half of that same frame, with two runners in scoring position, catcher Reuben Bennevendo drove a double deep to right-center that cleared the bases to increase TSU’s lead to three runs for a 4-1 advantage.
Despite conceding that solo blast in the third, Fields eventually recovered as he went on to allow just three hits over the next 5.1 innings, inhibiting Southern’s potency–their .297 team average is third-best in SWAC–to a shell of itself until his exit prior to the ninth inning.
In the meantime, TSU continued to add to its count as they added two runs in the sixth from a Justin Cooper score on a wild pitch thrown by reliever Khristian Paul and Ponce’s subsequent RBI base hit to right-center field. In the eighth, Cooper swiped the team’s seventh run from another wild pitch, this time off Austin Haensel, after the opposing player walked teammate Nic Garza.
In the top of the ninth, which saw TSU pull Fields out in favor of Caleb DuBois to close the game, Isaiah Adams shortened Southern’s deficit to 7-2 with an RBI double, delivering one last breath of resistance before the game’s conclusion
Fields fanned nine batters in his season-high eight innings of work which included six hits and one earned run. This is the third time this season that Fields has struck out nine batters in a game. His third winning decision of the year improved his SWAC-best ERA to 1.32. Furthermore, he also leads the conference in innings pitched (27.1) and strikeouts (34).
Clayborne emerged as the Tigers’ leading figure in the victory as he reached base four times on his three hits and one walk–not to mention his stolen base which occurred in the bottom of the sixth. He is currently riding on a 13-game reached base streak that has gone on since March 2 (at Texas Tech).
Ponce and Thompson rounded out the team with its multiple-hit batters with two hits apiece against Southern. Going back to March 7, Ponce has managed to snag a hit in 11 of his last 12 games; and since the second game of the March 13 doubleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, he has strung together a six-game hitting streak.
Although not recording a base hit in his five plate appearances, Cooper has engineered three walks that converted into three runs scored and a stolen base.
Texas Southern returns for the second game of its series against SU at MacGregor Park on Friday, April 2 at 2 p.m.
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