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Alcorn advances to NCAA tournament for first time

Courtesy of Alcorn State University — Southern University’s Diomedes Gonzalez attempts to slide home as Alcorn State University’s Edgardo Salas tries to tag him in the SWAC tournament championship game May 22. Alcorn won 12-6 to secure its first SWAC title.

NATCHEZ — The Alcorn State baseball team made history May 22 by winning its first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

Although it was the first-conference championship for the Braves, winning the title did not come as a huge surprise to second-year coach Barret Rey.

“(I knew we could win the conference), without a doubt in my mind,” Rey said. “And (the players) knew it too, and that made it easier that they knew (they could win) it too.”

“(Coming into the year) knowing what we had coming back, and the people we added, we felt we were in good position to compete.”

The Braves dominated their conference slate this season, going 19-4 in the regular season and winning the Eastern Division crown. Alcorn then won four games in the conference tournament in Shreveport, La., by a combined score of 51-16.

Alcorn senior Kilby Perdomo was named tournament MVP after batting .461 with 11 RBIs and nine runs scored. He also hit three home runs.

Outfielder Kenny Rowan, infielder Eduardo Gonzalez and pitcher Steve Easter also made the All-Tournament Team.

Rey said he credits the ability of the players and also the team’s veteran leadership with the team’s success.

“I really put a lot of the success with the kids,” Rey said. “We’re a senior based club, and they understand the system and bought into it. They policed themselves through the whole system, and understand what’s right and wrong.”

Rey was named SWAC coach of the year this season. He has led the Braves to the Eastern Division title in both of his seasons with Alcorn.

Rey said he made the tournament as a player and an assistant coach with Southern University, but advancing with Alcorn is special.

“It feels great, it’s a great feeling that these guys made history,” Rey said. “I’m just very proud of them.”

The Braves (26-27) struggled against SEC teams Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State in the regular season. They also lost to Conference USA teams Tulane, Memphis and Southern Mississippi as well as losing to other powerhouse teams like Arizona. Those non-conference losses hurt the Braves’ overall record, but helped them prepare for NCAA Tournament play, Rey said.

“We have a good chance (in the tournament) because of the schedule we played. We played a heavy non-conference schedule to prepare for tournament competition, and we think we can shock some people,” Rey said. “That’s what we’re talking about — shocking the world.”

Before the Braves can take aim at advancing in the NCAA Tournament, they must wait until Monday to see where they will play, Rey said. He said knowing that they are in and waiting to see who and where they will play is very exciting.

Until then, Rey and his players can enjoy making history as the first ever SWAC baseball champions from Alcorn State.

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