Valley takes two from Braves, play DH today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2003

LORMAN &045; There are two big surprises going on right now in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division.

Mississippi Valley State is on the verge of winning the title.

And Alcorn State is maybe down to its last playoff breath.

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The Delta Devils extended their winning streak to eight games with a doubleheader sweep of the Braves Saturday in Lorman. Valley won Game 1 8-5 before storming through the second game for a 16-11 win to tighten its grip on first place and keep the Braves tumbling in the standings.

Alcorn (18-22, 13-13), marred by eight errors and 10 walks in the second game, can’t really afford a loss from here on out. The Braves play at Valley (18-21, 16-6) today in a doubleheader and finish the season with two doubleheaders against Jackson State April 26-27.

Jackson State swept Alabama State Saturday to increase its lead over the Braves.

&uot;These were very crucial games,&uot; said ASU catcher Shane Phillips, who smacked his first career homer but had a costly throwing error in Game 1. &uot;It really hurt us. Our pitching and the errors killed us. It’s kind of like a snowball effect. One thing goes wrong, and it’s like quicksand. It’s crucial we have to take two (today) at Valley and four from Jackson.&uot;

The mistakes in Game 2 were quite costly, and the Delta Devils made the Braves pay almost each time. The Braves cut the lead to 11-9 heading into the seventh inning, but the Delta Devils tagged five more runs on the board to put the game away.

Valley scored in each inning in Game 2 and in all but two innings in Game 1.

&uot;Alcorn always plays us tough,&uot; said Valley shortstop Tee Thomas, who had two triples in Game 2. &uot;We had to put the ball in play, and we did a great job today. You want to win, but the best thing about it is we’re doing something the school has never done before. We want to get into the playoffs, but we want to keep winning, also.&uot;

The nightmare in the seventh began when Alcorn reliever Greg Williams &045; who is moving more into the closer role &045; walked the first two batters before a Thomas triple scored them both.

Two batters reached on errors, and a Robert Reynolds sacrifice fly brought home Stephen Bilokur. Philip Dawson reached on the third error of the inning, and Colby Gonzales doubled home a run before the Delta Devils ended the inning with the bases loaded.

Alcorn, who had four in the sixth with two coming on a two-run homer from Louis Beatty, scored two in the seventh off reliever Jonathan Grantham. Phillips homered, and Edrick Patton scored on an error.

Grantham then got Beatty to strike out with runners at second and third to end the game.

&uot;What hurt us was the walks,&uot; Alcorn head coach Willie &uot;Rat&uot; McGowan said. &uot;That really killed us, and you can’t do that against a team that’s hitting the ball like Valley. We’re not putting it all together. You’ve got to get offense, defense and pitching together, and we still haven’t been able to do that. I don’t know when they’re going to do it, but we still haven’t played our best ball of the year.&uot;

The Delta Devils jumped on Alcorn and starter Courtney Dunn early with five runs in the first. They got a run in the second, two in the third and one in the fourth and fifth off reliever Derian Dotson to take a 10-4 lead.

Reynolds doubled in two runs in the first, and he scored in the fourth on a Tim Klick infield single. Donnell Robinson scored on a fielder’s choice in the fifth.

&uot;This is the first time we’ve ever won a doubleheader down here,&uot; Valley head coach Doug Shanks said. &uot;We’ve got seven or eight legitimate hitters, and we’ve got three or four legitimate Division I hitters. Not all are going to hit at the same time, but what you want is three or four doing real well.&uot;

Alcorn still swung the bats well but merely couldn’t keep up with Valley. Janone Watts had a two-run homer in the first, and Kris Peters tripled home Edrick Patton in the second to cut the lead to 6-3. A Sly McClain sacrifice fly in the fourth scored Matt Richter, and Richter singled in Peters in the fifth to trim the lead to 10-5.

But every time the Braves made a move, the Devils answered in their next at-bat.

&uot;We generated enough offense,&uot; McGowan said. &uot;Good teams have a tendency to improve, and we haven’t improved that much. We’re playing the same ball we played at the beginning of the year, and it’s not enough to beat teams who have improved since the beginning of the year.&uot;