Pressure cooker

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 23, 2003

JACKSON &045; Maybe Brandon Talton was just too locked in to feel any pressure.

The pressure was on the Alcorn left-hander in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader after Jackson State won the first game, 6-3, to follow Saturday’s sweep in Lorman. The Braves had to salvage something out of the four-game set after coming into the weekend in first place, and Talton knew he had to come up big.

Talton ended up tossing a three-hitter and walking just three in the Braves’ 4-1 win over the Tigers in Jackson to avoid the sweep.

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&uot;I just knew I had to go in and do my job on the mound,&uot; said Talton, who stuck out five. &uot;We had to play together as a team and not individually. We had to play for each other and not self.&uot;

Talton gained more control of his pitches as the game went on, and the Braves backed him up with no errors until the seventh inning. The Tigers pounded out 17 runs in three innings in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, but Sunday the Braves kept the hitters off balance more and didn’t have to go to the bullpen.

The win helps the Braves stay in the hunt for the top two spots in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division. Only the top two teams go to the postseason tournament as opposed to the top three last season.

&uot;We’ve got the second half (of the season),&uot; Alcorn head coach Willie &uot;Rat&uot; McGowan said. &uot;We’ve got two more games against them at Alcorn and two more here. The next time we play them, I know what it’s going to take. It’s going to be a better ball game, and my kids are going to be prepared.&uot;

The Tigers were prepared coming into the series until running out of steam against Talton in the second game. They threatened in their last at-bat thanks to two errors, the first putting Chris Outlaw on base before Trey White singled him home to sink Talton’s shutout.

An error on third baseman Tim Galloway brought the tying run to the plate with two outs, but Thomas Browne grounded out to second to end the game.

&uot;I threw routine pitches,&uot; Talton said. &uot;My fastball was a lot more consistent. As the game progressed, I improved control and get everything over for strikes. I began to lose control of my fastball (in the fifth). It was moving (up) on me.&uot;

Talton had trouble in the fourth and fifth but worked his way out of it in his only jam in the first six innings. In the fourth he put two runners on with one out before getting Outlaw and Rafael Johnson to strike out to end the inning.

In the sixth Anthony Webb led off with a single and went to second when nine-hole hitter White walked. Talton got Bryant Lange to strike out, catcher Scott Spillars threw out Webb trying to steal third and Browne grounded out to first to end the inning.

&uot;I thought both pitchers did a good job today,&uot; McGowan said. &uot;Dan Smith did a good job (in Game 1). The thing that hurt him was the balks and the defense. I call the pitches, and I was talking with (Talton). I knew what they hit and which kids can hit the fastball. We threw a whole lot of sliders and curves. Then later we came with the fastball. What he did so well was he was around the plate. We didn’t have all those walks.&uot;

The Braves supplied the offense in the early going off freshman right-hander Anton Shinhoster, who made his second start of the season in place of two injured weekend pitchers. Alcorn got three in the third as Tory Bates doubled home Janone Watts, Louis Beatty scored on a Galloway groundout and Greg White singled home Bates for the 4-0 lead.

Shinhoster exited after the fourth inning, and reliever Nigel Young held Alcorn scoreless in the last three innings.

&uot;We feel like we’re very fortunate to come out of the weekend with three out of four,&uot; JSU head coach Mark Salter said. &uot;With that in mind, our prayers are with the soldiers (in the Middle East). It was a good weekend for us. We played a very good team, and sometimes things don’t go your way. We’ll go back to the drawing board and see what happens.&uot;