SWAC Tournament is all that matters now for JSU

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 8:52 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There is a reason why Omar Johnson approached things the way he did.

As his baseball team continued to wrack up win after win in the SWAC, the Jackson State coach never once gathered the team together to talk about the possibility of a perfect conference record. In the end, the Tigers did accomplish that, but after 24 hours of enjoying the feat, Johnson made sure his team went back to looking forward and not behind.

“The regular season and the postseason are two different times,” Johnson said a few hours before he and the Tigers hopped on a bus and departed for Madison, Alabama and the 2021 SWAC Tournament.

“Anything before the playoffs doesn’t really matter,” said Anthony Becerra who will be getting the start on the mound in the Tigers first game on Wednesday against Texas Southern.

“If you did good, if you did bad (in the regular season), it’s all in the past. It’s kind of like a new season.”

While the 24-0 conference record did lock up JSU the top-seed for the tournament, the slates from the regular season have essentially been wiped clean. With the SWAC routinely being at or near the bottom in the conference RPI rankings, only one conference team is lucky enough to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament and that comes from the automatic bid from winning the SWAC Tournament.

So while what the Tigers accomplished in the regular season was nothing short of historic, it also can be easily ruined by a run of bad games this week.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Johnson of the SWAC being just a one-bid league. “But it makes (the SWAC Tournament) important.”

That importance not lost on a team that has proven itself to be the best in the SWAC all season long, so the players know that as long as they don’t let the added pressure of the “win-or-go-home” mentality get to them, there is no reason that it should not be Jackson State hoisting the program’s fourth ever SWAC Tournament trophy - first since 2014 - on Sunday.

“The intensity is going to be better than it has been all season,” explained Ty Hill, who led all SWAC hitters with a .431 batting average this season. “The nerves are going to be there but we’re just going to continue to be calm and play as hard as we can.”

Wednesday’s first pitch between JSU and Texas Southern is set for 3:00 p.m. at Toyota Field as the third of four games on the first day of the tournament.

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