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Jackson State riding momentum into SWAC Tournament

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 7:48 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Locked and loaded up, a bus filled with the Jackson State baseball players and staff was ready to hit the road.

Its destination: Birmingham, Alabama and the 2022 SWAC Baseball Tournament.

However, just as the bus was getting ready to pull out of the parking lot at the Williams Athletic Assembly Center, the brake lights came on, the door opened and out came a jogging Ty Hill, who forgot a pair of baseball cleats in his truck. The last thing the Tigers needed was for their leading hitter to have to break in a new pair from a random sporting goods store, especially with everything that is at stake this weekend.

“I don’t think we ever feel any pressure,” said Hill. “We always treat every game like it’s a championship game anyway.”

For as up-and-down as the JSU season has been this year, it still has as good a chance as any to win the conference tournament and get the SWAC’s only ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Having capped off the regular seasons with sweeps over Florida A&M and Mississippi Valley State, the Tigers head into this week’s festivities with the longest active win-streak of the eight teams in the field. The feeling amongst the squad is that they are peaking at the right time.

“A great feeling to be able to go out and win,” said El’Rico Riley, who leads the Tigers with six home runs this season. “I don’t think we’re going to change anything, just sticking to our routine and knowing what we do best.”

And as it turns out, the baseball gods have a pretty sick sense of humor.

The last time the Tigers were in the SWAC Tournament was the 2021 final, needing just three more outs to win the title and complete a perfect SWAC record. Instead of three outs, Southern University scored three runs to pull off the upset. Those two teams now meeting up again for a opening round matchup on Wednesday, only this time it’s the Tigers who are the underdogs.

“It gives us the drive to do better this tournament,” Hill explained. “Focus on what we did wrong and win it this time.”

First pitch for Wednesday’s matchup between JSU and Southern is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Regions Park in Birmingham. It is the third of four first round games of the SWAC Tournament with Florida A&M and Prairie View A&M opening things up at 9 a.m.

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