Waldyvan Estrada had five hits, including a grand slam and drove in six runs to lead Alabama State to a doubleheader sweep of Mississippi Valley State Saturday at the Wheeler-Watkins Baseball Complex.
The Hornets won game one 8-1, and the nightcap 10-3 in winning for the ninth time in their past 10 Southwestern Athletic Conference games.
Estrada went 2-for-4 in game one with two RBI, and went 3-for-4 in the nightcap with a second-inning grand slam, three runs scored, and four RBI. Estrada went 8-for-11 in the weekend series with nine RBI.
"He was huge all weekend," Head Coach Mervyl Melendez said of Estrada, who now has six home runs this season to tie a career-high and tie for the conference lead in homers with teammate Dexter Price. "He got the base hit last night to end the game, and hit a grand slam today with two strikes and two outs. That's a great at-bat. You want guys to continue to get better, to get good at-bats, and to make adjustments at the plate, which he did a great job of today. When you get eight hits in 11 at-bats, you have to feel good about yourself, but it was the adjustments he made that really helped him be better this weekend."
The weekend sweep lifts Alabama State (18-12 overall, 9-3 SWAC) into first place with Jackson State at the halfway mark in the conference schedule. ASU has the tie breaker by virtue of the series win over the Tigers two weeks ago.
"It's early," Melendez said of his team's current first-place standing. "We feel good about where we stand, but we have to continue to play good baseball. I told the guys it was a great weekend, we did what we wanted to do, and I'm very proud of them, but now we have to concentrate on what's next. We're very happy to be 9-3 at this point in conference play, but we know that the meat of the conference season is still yet to come."
Game 1 – Hornets 8, Miss. Valley St. 1: As it did Friday night, Alabama State started fast with a four-run second-inning and three-run fourth to take control.
Branden Castro led off the second with a single to center field and was bunted into scoring position with one out. Dillon Cooper then singled to left field to score Castro. Emmanuel Marrero singled through the left side to give the Hornets runners on first and second. Following the second out, Richard Amion's three-run inside the park home run, his second such homer of the season, gave the Hornets a 4-0 lead.
In the fourth, Leo Rojas walked, Cooper singled, and Marrero walked to load the bases. Following a force out at home, Amion's sacrifice fly scored Rojas. After Richard Gonzalez walked to reload the bases, Estrada singled through the right side to score Marrero and Marcus Swint for a 7-0 Alabama State lead.
Swint capped the scoring with a solo home run to left field in the sixth inning. Joel Alvira (3-0) and a trio of Hornet relievers held Valley to just three hits in the opener.
"I thought we swung the bats very well, and very much like Friday we had a big inning early," Melendez said. "When you score early, it sets the tone for the game and the pitcher can actually pitch a bit more freely. I thought Joel threw a lot of strikes."
Game 2 – Hornets 10, Miss. Valley St. 3: Alabama State was clutch when it counted, as the first nine runs scored in the nightcap came with two outs.
With two on and two out in the first inning, Castro tripled to left-center field on a 1-2 pitch to give the Hornets a 2-0 lead. In the second, Einar Muniz drew a one-out walk. With two outs, Amion doubled to right-center field and Gonzalez walked to load the bases. On a 1-2 pitch, Estrada hit his second grand slam of the season to left field for a 6-0 Hornet lead.
In the fourth, Castro's sacrifice fly scored Gonzalez, who had doubled, for a 7-0 lead. After the Delta Devils (3-26, 1-8) scored two in the fifth, the Hornets responded with two in the sixth. With two out, Estrada singled to center field and scored on Dexter Price's RBI double to left field. Brandon Castro then singled to right field to score Price for a 9-2 Hornet lead.
"That's an area we had been lacking in a little bit," Melendez said of his team's ability to get two-out RBI. "I'm proud that we did that today. There's an old cliché that two-out hits win baseball games. We did a very good job of that today with two outs and runners in scoring position. To win ball games, you're going to have to get the big base hits when it counts with runners in scoring position, whether it's two out or not."
The Hornets return to action Tuesday at Troy at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at home against Georgia State at 4:30 p.m. before hosting Alcorn State in a SWAC series next Saturday and Sunday.