Jackson State completed its season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference on May 3, dropping two of three at home to Alcorn State.  Their record was 27-23.  They finished 9-15 in the league, which was the eighth best record in the league.  The Tigers had three games left, all on the road against Savannah State.

Those games were never played.

On May 5, the Jackson State bus caught fire and was destroyed.  So were a lot of players' personal effects and virtually all their equipment.  They had one week to get new uniforms, bats, balls, gloves...everything.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss helped out with donations.  On May 14th, Jackson State started play in the SWAC baseball tournament.

And proceeded to win the championship.

Now the rejuvenated Tigers (31-23) begin NCAA play Friday against top seed and top ranked Louisiana (53-7) at 6pm at M. L. Tigue Moore Field.

The two teams met in an elimination game a year ago in Baton Rouge.  The Cajuns were stymied for four innings before rolling to a 15-1 win.  The two starting pitchers in that game, Austin Robichaux and Desmond Russell, will square off again.  Here's a look at the Tigers

OFFENSE--They can swing it.  The Tigers have three regulars hitting over .300 and this team has some gap power (101 doubles).  Tilur Smith leads JSU in hitting (.344) doubles (16) and slugging (.538).  Melvin Rodriguez leads the team in RBI (45) and has walked 41 times, which led the SWAC.  This team finds a way to get on base, averaging more than five free baserunners per game.  Their on-base percentage is excellent (.389).  And, they don't strike out a ton.  They've got very little home run power, but they're not a punch and judy hitting team by any means.

SMALL BALL?--The Tigers excel at it.  They've got 76 sacrifices on the season.  When they get someone on base, they're going to move them, either by bunt or by steal.  JSU has stolen 85 bases on the season with three players having ten or more.  Fifteen different players have swiped at least one bag during the season.  They're very athletic.

PITCHING:  It's Russell, and then it's Johnny Wholestaff.  When Omar Johnson needs something done on the mound, he turns to the 5-8, 170 lb senior who pitched a complete game without allowing an earned run against #1 seed UAPB in the conference tournament opener, then came back and pitched five innings in a victory over Alabama State in the title game. Russell (9-4, 3.50, 2 saves) has eight...count em...eight complete games.  He'll be well rested for the opener.  The Bahamas native has also had 128 at bats on the season, hitting .289.  But after Russell, this staff is very much hit and miss.  Alexander Juday (5-7, 4.17) and Brandon Gregory (2-3, 6.45) are the only other two pitchers to log more than 45 innings on the season.

DEFENSE:  Not good.  Their three infielders have made 40 errors on the season and the Tigers have had miscues at every position.  Their 98 errors and .954 fielding percentage is easily the worst in the field in this regional.  Catcher Jose Cruz has had his struggles as well.  He has six errors, a dozen passed balls and has only thrown out 14 of 65 would be base stealers.

OUTLOOK:  You've got to admire these guys.  They had tremendous adversity after a tough regular season.  They easily could have quit and a group not as tough as this one would have done just that.  Russell is a good player and leads this team by example as a tough competitor. The rest of the staff is pretty non-descript and the defense certainly hasn't helped them.  If they're going to win their first post-season game in their history, they're going to have to swing it and swing it well.  Against Robichaux, that won't be an easy task.