Carlos James said his Golden Lions won't be caught sleeping.
Part of that is because the head coach has had the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff baseball team wake up at 6 a.m. every morning since Friday in preparation of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament.
UAPB (20-23, 12-10 SWAC) plays Jackson State (32-16, 17-7) at 9 a.m. today in the first round of the SWAC Tournament, which the Golden Lions never have won despite earning the top seed in two of the past four seasons.
This year, the Golden Lions earned the third seed in the West Division -- Jackson State earned the second seed in the East -- but James said his team understands what a lower seed can do from firsthand experience.
"We've been here enough to know that being No. 1 is not enough," said James, whose top-seeded Golden Lions lost within the first two rounds of the double-elimination SWAC Tournament in both 2014 and 2016. "We can win it from any position. They can just come in and have fun, and see if you can get hot over a three-, four-day period."
UAPB has not played Jackson State this season. Teams from the West and East divisions in the SWAC don't play each other during the regular season.
Five Jackson State players were named to the All-SWAC second team, and catcher Stephan Vidal and relief pitcher Jose Tirado both made the first team. Tirado (5-1, 2.78 ERA) was named the conference's Relief Pitcher of the Year, and Nickelle Galatas (9-2, 4.27) was named Freshman of the Year.
Golden Lions junior outfielder Sergio Esparza (.306 batting average, 38 RBI) was named to the conference's second team.
James said that junior left-hander Peyton Burks (4-5, 4.88) will start against Jackson State because the Tigers have "some dangerous left-handed hitters in the lineup."
"They have trouble with left-handed pitching," James said.
Burks last pitched a complete-game, 10-inning, 6-2 victory at Prairie View A&M on May 6 with 7 hits, 2 earned runs, a walk and 7 strikeouts.
Jackson State has not announced a starting pitcher, but UAPB's game plan doesn't alter too much based on who it faces on the mound.
"None are strikeout guys," James said. "They make you put the ball in play, makes them play defense. Hopefully, we can bang some balls around, spread them across the field."
At a glance
SWAC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
At Wesley Barrow Stadium, New Orleans
All times Central
GAME 1 Jackson State vs. UAPB, 9 a.m
GAME 2 Grabling State vs. Miss. Valley State, noon
GAME 3 Texas Southern vs. Alcorn State, 3 p.m.
GAME 4 Alabama State vs. Prairie View A&M, 6 p.m.
GAME 5 Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 9 a.m.
GAME 6 Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, noon
GAME 7 Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 3 p.m.
GAME 8 Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m.
GAME 9 Game 7 loser vs. Game 5 winner, 9 a.m.
GAME 10 Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 loser, noon
GAME 11 Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 3 p.m.
GAME 12 Game 10 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6 p.m.
SATURDAY'S GAMES if necessary
GAME 11b Game 11 winner vs. Game 11 loser, noon
GAME 12b Game 12 winner vs. Game 12 loser, 3 p.m.
GAME 13 Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 2 p.m. (ESPNEWS)
Sports on 05/16/2018
Print Headline: UAPB to take swing as a lower seed