2/24/2013 1:02 A.M. ET
Alabama St., Texas Southern victorious at Invitational
By Richard Dean / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- With the bases loaded, two out and Alabama State trailing by two runs in the top of the fifth inning, Waldyvan Estrada didn't have much time to size up Southern University reliever John Thigpen, who had just entered the game.
On Thigpen's third pitch, the right-handed-hitting Estrada launched a towering home run to left-center off the left-handed Thigpen. The grand slam gave the Hornets a two-run lead, capped a five-run inning and was the catalyst for a 6-4 win over the Jaguars on Saturday in the Urban Invitational at Minute Maid Park.
"He left a fastball up," said Estrada. "I was timing him and he threw me a mistake. I got a pitch to hit. "He made a bad pitch and I made him pay."
Dillon Cooper homered to lead off the sixth for Alabama State, which collected 11 hits. Estrada, Dexter Price and Leo Rojas had two hits apiece for the Hornets. Rojas, who went 5-for-5 on Friday against Prairie View A&M, left the game in the seventh inning with an injury to his right hamstring after legging out an infield single.
"We got some timely hits," said Alabama State coach Mervyl Melendez. "In the beginning, we didn't produce a lot of runs, but we had that big inning and that was the difference in the ballgame."
Loaded with freshmen and playing in a big home ballpark, the Hornets (6-1) hit only 14 home runs last season.
"The power numbers may increase this year, but the effort tonight was unbelievable," said Melendez, whose team is favored to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference. "Estrada got the big hit when we needed it."
Joseph Camacho (2-0) was the beneficiary of the Hornets' five extra-base hits. Camacho allowed six hits and four runs in six innings.
Southern's Jose DeLa Torre hit a seventh-inning home run into the Crawford Boxes in left field among his two hits with two runs and two RBIs. But Hornets reliever Matt Burnside struck out DeLa Torre for the second out in the ninth with a runner on base. Teammate Bryan Rowry added two hits for the Jaguars.
Three extra-base hits in the fourth inning resulted in two runs for Southern as it built a 3-0 advantage. Stephen Wallace's triple scored Rowry, who led off the inning with a triple. Wallace scored on a double by DeLa Torre.
Jose DeLeon (0-2) took the loss for Southern (2-4), which lost, 1-0, to Texas Southern on Friday, managing only four hits. On Saturday, the Jaguars had only six hits.
"We haven't got guys going yet," said Southern coach Roger Cador. "Hitting has to do with confidence. It's something we need to work on, keep doing it. We'll get better. We have kids that are capable of getting better and producing."
Texas Southern 9, Prairie View A&M 0: Texas Southern got a little pay back. Last year, the Panthers eliminated the Tigers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament en route to the conference championship. But this time it was all TSU. The Tigers rode the pitching of Robert Pearson and three RBIs from catcher Andrew Garza in the second game at Minute Maid Park.
"We came out ready, because it's a rivalry within our conference," said Garza. "It was a blessing to play here. We had fun."
Garza, who has thrown out three baserunners in four stolen-base attempts in TSU's first two games of the invitational, had a good time catching Pearson (1-1). The right-hander allowed only two hits in 7 1/3 innings.
"He was phenomenal," said Garza. "He was hitting his spots. That's all you can ask for in a starter. He did just what we expect from him."
Pearson gave up a single to Walter Wells to lead off the first inning and didn't allow another hit until a one-out single by Dominiq Harris in the seventh inning. The Panthers (3-4) managed only three hits.
"They're the defending SWAC champs and we put a nine-spot on them and zero runs for them," said Pearson, who struck out six with two walks.
A four-run fifth inning broke the game open for TSU (5-2). A bases-loaded, two-run hit by Garza was the big blow, and a third run scored on the play.
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.