Grambling baseball finds a way to win and, perhaps, a new leader

Grambling baseball picked up wins No. 1 and 2 over the weekend, besting Texas-based NAIA Jarvis Christian by identical scores of 14-1 in the doubleheader home-weekend opener for first-year Tigers coach James Cooper.

More importantly, the squad might be finding a new leader in Eric Zagone, who took the mound for the nightcap on Saturday. He scattered 6 hits over 7 innings, and struck out seven.

“Guys are tending to rally around him,” Cooper said. “Your ace will definitely be the guy who takes the mound and secures the win — the one who snaps a losing streak.”

Zagone is fifth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for pitching, with a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings pitched for GSU — which had opened 2010 with nine consecutive losses. Only two pitchers in the SWAC have logged more innings and, of those two, just one (Texas Southern’s Dakota Laufenberg) has a lower ERA.

Certainly, the Tigers were also helped along by some ferocious hitting — notably, in a seven-run outburst in the third inning of Game 1 against Jarvis. Grambling now sits atop the SWAC for home runs in a game with 4.

Cooper — congratulated postgame by both his mom and former GSU baseball coach and mentor Wilbert Ellis — said that all-around improvement stems from a new-found focus on out-of-conference opponents.

“We don’t want our new guys to fall into the realm of only coming to play when we play a SWAC school,” said Cooper, whose next set is, in fact, a 1 p.m. Saturday doubleheader against conference foe Alabama State. “That’s one thing I want them to do as a player : You approach the games the same way — no matter what uniform is in the other dugout.”

Grambling started 2009 on an eight-game losing streak, and similarly snapped that skid with a win over Jarvis Christian. The Tigers eventually advanced to the SWAC baseball tournament last year, and were one win away from the title game.

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