From SFA Athletics
Seven years ago at the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament, Southeastern Louisiana ended the SFA baseball team's hopes at its first NCAA Tournament berth by knocking out an SFA squad featuring the likes of Hunter Dozier, Cameron Gann and other former 'Jack greats.
Wednesday morning, the 'Jacks and Lions hooked up at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas, but this time SFA had one game-changing component that they didn't in 2012.
Alex Palmer. In his SFA postseason debut, “The Mane Event” put forth his finest pitching performance yet by tossing a three-hit complete game shutout while racking up 10 strikeouts to lead the sixth-seeded 'Jacks past the third-seeded Lions 5-0.
Prior to Wednesday, Palmer had pitched with a lead of four or more runs just one other time during his SFA turner, but that changed as the 'Jacks knocked 2019 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year Corey Gaconi around for four runs before he exited in the sixth.
T2 | After hearing about their much-maligned offense multiple times through a 55-game regular season, the 'Jacks started to show just how much pop was really in their bats beginning in the second inning. Junior Sean Moore roped a one-out double down the left field line off of Gaconi for the game’s first hit before junior Jordan Monacy handed the sixth-seeded 'Jacks a lead they would never relinquish. Monacy bounced a 3-2 offering from Gaconi though the left side of the infield that scored Moore and put SFA ahead 1-0.
T6 | Unhappy with playing just a single run against the 2019 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, the 'Jacks knocked Gaconi out for good by putting a three-spot on the board in the sixth. On the second pitch of the inning, Georgiades teed off on a 1-0 offering from Gaconi and deposited it in Constellation Field's deck. The solo home run was the junior's second of 2019 and hiked SFA's lead to 2-0. The rest of SFA's lineup used that hit as a rallying cry as Moore and Monacy followed with singles before senior Jarrod Huber reached on a fielder's choice bunt to load the bases. In business, the bottom portion of the 'Jacks' lineup continued to cook when freshman Carson Clowers made matters 3-0 with an RBI single through the left side. Senior Antonio Lima sent Gaconi back to the dugout with a sacrifice fly that scored Huber to make matters 4-0 - a lead that proved to be insurmountable with The Mane Event tossing balls and strikes.
T9 | Less than 24 hours removed from a runner-up finish in the Southland Conference Home Run Derby, senior Manny Vasquez displayed some extra-base power in his Southland Conference Tournament debut. The Naco, Ariz., product launched a one-out RBI double to right field to score freshman Brandon Uhse. That two-bagger accounted for the final 5-0 score.
ON THE HILL• Palmer's legendary status continued to grow with his latest dazzling outing. The junior tossed the first complete-game shutout in SFA's Southland Conference Tournament history and let just one Southeastern Louisiana baserunner get into scoring position. • With his 10 strikeouts, the junior upped his season total to 109 which leads the Southland Conference for the moment. He's the lone Lumberjack arm to amass more than 100 strikeouts in a single season in program history. • In terms of complete games, Wednesday's was his fourth in a row and his fifth in 2019. That ranks him fourth in the nation among all NCAA Division I pitchers in terms of complete games. • For Gaconi (7-3), he worked his way through 5 2/3 innings of seven-hit, four-run baseball before getting yanked. He did strike out five 'Jacks, but also walked a pair and hit one before turning things over to the Lions' bullpen for the final 3 1/3 frames.
AT THE DISH• Making the most of plate appearances, the 'Jacks' six-through-nine hole hitters feasted on Gaconi and the Lions' pitching staff. Those five players hit 8-for-21 (.381) on the day with Clowers, Georgiades, Monacy and Moore each totaling a pair of hits. • Moore scored two of the 'Jacks' runs while Georgiades and Huber added one each. Uhse drew three of SFA's four walks on the day and was the only Lumberjack to reach base three times. • Three Lions had one hit each to pace Southeastern Louisiana's three-hit attack.
ON DECK• Thursday afternoon, the 'Jacks will continue their run in the Southland Conference Tournament by taking on either second-seeded Central Arkansas or seventh-seeded Northwestern State at 4:00 p.m. from Constellation Field. That game, as well as every other game of the Tournament, will be streamed nationwide on ESPN+ and the ESPN app.
On the performance of Alex Palmer | “If anybody ever had any doubts on whether or not Alex Palmer is the best pitcher we’ve ever had at SFA, or one of the best pitchers in the Southland Conference and probably one of the best pitchers in the nation, I think he made believers out of them.”On SFA’s offensive performance | "We have been preaching to our hitters all week that it doesn’t matter what your stats are in the regular season. Up to this point, you’re trying to hit .300, get good numbers, put your team in a good position and I understand that. But I told them that once we get to the tournament it’s not about your individual statistics. It’s about whether or not we can win games and move on. I think everybody bought into that. I saw a lot of good attitudes today, a lot of focus in batting practice and I really feel like those guys are poised to turn the corner and help us win some games
.On Sean Moore’s defense in left field | "Those plays he made in the seventh inning were huge. The two outs he made in left both came on first pitch swings and that allowed us to keep Palmer’s pitch count down in that inning. You can’t understate what that does for a pitcher who’s up in the 80s or 90s in terms of pitch count at that point in the game. That really helps him get to the ninth inning. On getting the win with only seven players on the roster who had played in the Southland Conference Tournament before | "You always have to do well on the first day. We talked to the guys and told them it doesn’t matter if you have experience - nothing matters but the game that’s in front of you and the job that’s in front of you. I give all the credit in the world to our guys for buying in and focusing on the task at hand. On SFA’s opponent in game two | “There are no more good matchups or bad matchups anymore. It’s tournament time and as the members of our conference have proved this year anyone can go out there and take it to anyone else on any given day. We’re all good, and we’re all in the tournament so we’re getting each other’s best shot for the next three days.”