PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas -- A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away an old, yet wise Jedi knight uttered sage advise to his young apprentice.
"Do or do not, there is no try!"
With a Southwestern Athletic Conference division title on the line, Southern University baseball built an 11-3 lead, received another solid start from pitcher Eli Finney and held off a late rally to turn back Prairie View A&M 12-8 Wednesday afternoon at Tankersly Field.
Nearly two years ago, Southern University introduced Kerrick Jackson as the Jaguars' new head baseball coach and charged the St. Louis native with the task of reviving the dormant program rich with tradition.
May the 4th will be remembered as the day Jackson and the Southern baseball program made a hyperspace-esque jump towards restoring Jaguar pride.
Southern captured the program's first SWAC Western Division title since 2012 and will enter the 2019 SWAC Tournament in New Orleans as a No. 1 seed. The Jaguars last SWAC championship came in 2009 when Southern breezed through the field on their home field to record the final league title for legendary coach Roger Cador. The title adds to a remarkable narrative of the Jaguars miraculous turnaround from a 9-33 team from a year ago.
Senior Malik Blaise and Ashanti Wheatley led Southern with two hits and two RBIs each. Southern broke the game open in the second inning and provided Finney with enough run support for the junior college transfer from Okeechobee, Fla. to pick up his fourth win.
With the game tied at 2 in the second inning, Southern capitalized on several Prairie View miscues which allowed the Jaguars first four hitters to reach base on three walks and a fielders's choice. Johnny Johnson drove in two runs on his single through the middle of the Panther infield. A pair of walks sandwich Tyler LaPorte's score on a wild pitch. Willie Ward closed the scoring in the second with a 2 RBI single to give the Jaguars a 7-2 lead.
Southern added three more runs and relied on its stellar defense to produce a momentum-halting double plays in the third and fourth inning. But Prairie View mounted a late rally and pulled within four in the bottom of the ninth.
Relief pitcher Rhett Hebert, who entered in place of Larry Barabino, struggled after a lead off error and a balk ignited the Panther rally. Hebert struck out Dalton Horner after the Panthers added a run. After Calvin Rucker's RBI single, Hebert forced Kellen Rodgers into hitting a game-ending double play.
Southern will conclude the 2019 SWAC regular season with a noon doubleheader with the Panthers Sunday at Tankersly Field.