The Alcorn State University (ASU) Braves hosted a three-game series at Willie “Rat” McGowan Stadium against the Devils from Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) on the weekend of April 20-22. After the Braves defeated the Devils in game one by a score of 11-4, then lost to Valley in game 2 by a score of 5-0, Alcorn entered the rubber match of the series seeking to win the series. The Devils entered game 3 of the weekend with an overall record of 11-22 (9-8) while the Braves began game three with a record of 9-29 (4-13). Starting pitcher for Alcorn in the rubber match was a Junior from Jackson, Mississippi Bukhari Brown. On the mound for the visiting Devils was Zac Uecker. As 4:30 pm approached, the Braves were as excited and energetic as ever to win a crucial series in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).
In the top of the first inning Brown began the game with a four pitch walk despite a pair of quality pitches. Valley’s Quavante McGregory, who reached base via the walk, then stole second base. After an ensuing base-hit for the Devils, the game had runners at the corners with no one out. Valley then placed a bunt in a perfect spot to drive in the first run of the ball game. Next, Wendell Rieves drove in another run with an RBI single. At this point the Devils held an early 2-0 lead. After a strikeout, and a hit by a pitch, Valley’s second baseman hit a dribbler up the first base line to plate another run. Entering the bottom of the 1st inning, the Braves trailed 3-0. Wallace Rios got Alcorn started in the bottom half of the 1st inning by reaching base. After a fielder’s choice, a stolen base and a groundout the Braves had a man at third base with two outs. Junior, Hunter Wilson then reached on an error which allowed Barna to score.
Entering the top of the second inning Alcorn trailed 3-1. In the second, Brown got the first batter out on only two pitches then surrendered a double to Valley. Despite the double, Brown was able to make quality pitches and exit the inning without giving up a run. In the bottom of the second, Jordan McGowan began the inning with an incredible bunt single that energized the entire stadium.
Despite the good start to the inning Alcorn went scoreless and entered the 3rd inning trailing 3-1. In the top of the 3rd inning, Brown commanded the strike zone well with a pair of strikeouts and no runs allowed. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, after a leadoff groundout, Barna and Der’Vincient Hamilton reached base on back to back base hits. Wilson then followed up with a two RBI double to shrink the Braves deficit to 3-2. Heading into the middle half of the game the Devils lead was 3-2.
In the top of the 4th inning, Brown again commanded the strikeout zone despite a walk and a hit. The Braves were able to hold Valley scoreless as the game entered the bottom of the 4th inning. In the Braves’ ensuring at bats, they were retired in order.
Heading into the top of the 5th inning Alcorn State trailed 3-2. In the top of the 5th, Brown only needed 9 pitches to send the game into the bottom of the 5th inning. In the bottom half, Rios lead off the inning with a base hit. Barna then sacrificed Rios over with a bunt with only one out. Kyle Jenkings stepped to the plate and hit a line-drive to score Rios from 3rd base. McGowan followed Jenkings with another RBI single and for the first time of the game the Braves gained a lead at 4-3. Shortstop AJ Makarewicz then added to Alcorn’s lead with a base hit to score Wilson. After Makarewicz, Freshman Edward Jackson cleared the bases with a two RBI double to push the Braves lead to 7-3.
As the game entered the 6th inning the Braves had all the momentum. Brown continued to cruise as he held the Devils scoreless in the top of the 6th inning. Alcorn in the bottom half of the 6th inning was able to get their leadoff hitter on base. After loading the bases on walks and errors, McGowan showcased his good speed and hustle by beating out an infield hit to push Alcorn State’s lead to 8-3. Makarewicz followed McGowan with a pair of RBI’s with a single. After 6 innings the Braves held a commanding 10-3 lead.
In the top of the 7th inning Brown surrendered a pair of hits and allowed runners to advance into scoring position but he still was able to hold Valley from scoring. The bottom of the 7th went quickly as Alcorn was retired in order.
As the 8th inning began, Head Coach Brenton Richardson from Alcorn State made a pitching change and inserted Junior Relief Pitcher Zachary Perez to replace Brown. After a pair of walks and a base hit, Valley suddenly had the bases loaded with no one out still trailing 10-3. After a base hit, two runners scored and the Alcorn State lead was cut down to 10-5 with MVSU base runners on first and second base and no one out. Rieves from Valley then stepped to the plate and laced a two RBI double to cut the lead to 10-7. After a bloop base hit, runners were at the corners with one out and Richardson made another pitching change. Vicksburg, Mississippi native Tyler Smith entered the game hoping to get the Braves to the 9th inning with the lead intact. After forcing the first Valley batter to fly into a lazy out, Smith gave up a hit and the Devils trailed 10-8 as the ball game entered the final inning. In the bottom of the 8th inning, the Braves went down quietly which pushed the game into its final inning with Alcorn leading 10-8.
Smith returned to the game seeking his first save of the year. In the top of the 9th inning Smith surrendered a leadoff single then forced a weak groundout after a stolen base. After another weak groundout forced by Smith, Alcorn was one out away from winning the series until Rieves from Valley hit a two-run homerun to tie the game at 10-10. After a weak fly out the Braves had an opportunity to win the game with one run in the bottom of 9th inning. The Braves were unable to get a base runner in the bottom of the 9th inning so the game proceeded into extra innings.
As the top of the 10th inning began Smith stayed on the mound and issued a leadoff walk. After a bunt and an out Richardson decided to make a replacement on the mound and bring in Razedrick Winters. Winters entered the game and was able to execute pitches and left the Devils scoreless. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Devin Walden started off the inning with a base hit. Rios then advanced Walden into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Hamilton then walked to the plate and delivered the game winning hit and the Braves won the ballgame 11-10 and the series.
With the win, Alcorn advances to 10-30 (5-13) and positions themselves to make the SWAC Tournament with just 5 more conference wins. Brown pitched 7 innings allowing 5 hits and only 3 runs. The Braves’ offense came to life scoring 11 runs on 15 hits as they committed 0 errors.
The Braves next game will be Tuesday, April 24th at Willie “Rat” McGowen Stadium at 6:00 pm against the Grambling State University Tigers 21-19, (13-8).