Alabama State swept three Southwestern Athletic Conference teams to win the 2013 Urban Invitational at Houston’s Minute Maid Park and will return home to host Troy University in a game at Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The Hornets, 7-1 for the first time in school history, completed with an impressive sweep of SWAC West Division opponents with a 3-1 win over Texas Southern on Sunday afternoon, using a two-run homer from junior college transfer Dexter Price in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie.
Price, the designated hitter on Sunday, went 3-for-4 while third baseman Emmanuel Marrero went 3-for-3. The Hornets pounded out 10 hits in the tournament finale, but just as impressive is the pitching performance.
Starter Joel Alvira pitched five innings of four-hit ball, surrendering just one run, while relievers Julio Valdez, Armando Ruiz and Michael Estevez combined over the final four innings to allow just one hit.
The Hornets opened the tournament with a 9-2 victory over Prairie View A&M as T..J. Renda pitched seven shutout innings and Leo Rojas had a career high five hits. Coming off a no-hitter against Chicago State the previous week, Renda was nearly as impressive in allowing just four singles while walking one and striking out five.
“T.J. was very, very good,” ASU coach Mervyl Melendez said. “Again, he located his pitches, and every pitch he threw was down in the zone. The first inning was amazing. He hit every spot that was called and he piggybacked on that the rest of the game.”
Waldyvan Estrada homered in the eighth, his first of the season, one of just three extra-base hits by the Hornets as 16 of their season-high 19 hits were singles.
Rojas had one of the Hornets’ three extra-base hits on a double in the second inning, and hit singles in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings as he raised his batting average 129 points to .462.
Estrada was just warming up, however. On Saturday, against Southern, he hit a grand slam in the fifth inning to help the Hornets to a 6-4 victory.
“We have shown the ability to hit the long ball a little more than the past,” said Melendez, referring to a team that has hit six home runs this season after hitting just 14 all of last year. “A lot of credit goes to our head strength and conditioning coach Karl Jordan for working tirelessly with our guys and you see the difference with our guys and the way they are swing the bats and the power they are creating.”
And, once again, quality pitching out of the starter was a key as Joseph Camacho (2-0) pitched into the seventh, allowing six hits and four runs with one walk and three strikeouts.
“He got out of trouble consistently,” Melendez said. “I didn’t think he had great stuff but he bore down in big situations.”
After Tuesday’s game with Troy, the Hornets host Kennesaw State on Wednesday before hitting the road for their first conference series with Alcorn State this weekend.