NEW ORLEANS — The road to a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship just got a lot longer and a lot tougher for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff baseball team.
And Desmond Russell had a lot to do with it.
The No. 1 seed Golden Lions could never really figure out the Jackson State starting pitcher whose complete game led the fourth-seeded Tigers to a 7-1 win in the first round of the SWAC tournament on Wednesday at the MLB Urban Youth Academy’s Wesley Barrow Stadium.
Russell went the distance allowing just the one run, which was unearned, on five hits and three walks. He had eight strikeouts as he improved to 8-4 on the season.
On the other side, Jackson State (28-23) hit UAPB starter Mikey Ramirez hard. Ramirez (6-5) was coming off back-to-back complete games against Pittsburgh and Texas Southern, but the senior was knocked around to the tune of five runs (all earned) on eight hits in six-plus innings on Wednesday.
Three JSU players — Tilur Smith, Bryce Taylor and Charles Tillery — finished with two RBIs apiece.
Jackson State got on the board with a run in the third before plating three in the sixth and one in the seventh. The Tigers plated two runs in the eighth off Jaron Gold to take a 7-0 lead before the Lions (22-27) finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the frame.
In that inning, Vladimir Gomez and Mike Wieland earned back-to-back walks before an error on a ball hit by Isias Alcantar led to a bases-loaded situation.
Gomez, who was 1 for 3 with the walk, came in to score on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Andre Davis. Wieland, who finished 1 for 2 with a walk and hit-by-pitch, advanced to third on the play while Alcantar was thrown out at second on the play. Davis was then forced out at second when Joshua Cassidy hit a grounder to the third baseman.
With the loss, UAPB will now have to win three games in the next two days just to reach the weekend.
The road through the loser’s bracket begins with a 9 a.m. game Thursday againt Prairie View A&M, which lost 11-5 to Alabama A&M on Thursday.
If UAPB survives that game, a 9 a.m. game on Friday awaits. A victory in that game will earn the Lions a 3 p.m. contest later in the day. One of those Friday games would be against Jackson State and one would be against Alabama A&M, the order being determined by who wins the Tigers-Bulldogs game on Thursday.