Much to applaud, despite Prairie View’s series stumble against Grambling

Sure, they got swept by reigning SWAC baseball champion Grambling last weekend. But things are on the uptick for a once-dominant Prairie View A&M program that’s been down in the dumps for a while.

Third-year Panthers coach Waskyla Cullivan, an assistant for six seasons under Michael Robertson as Prairie View made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2006-07, took over when Robertson left for in-state Southwestern Athletic Conference foe Texas Southern. Then the bottom fell out.

“We fell short the last couple of years from lack of pitching,” Cullivan said, going into the Grambling series. “We had a lot of pitching injuries in the past, so we just went out and signed only pitchers for 2011. We knew that was a need for us.”

Of course, Prairie View went on to stumble badly in Louisiana, during a weekend that included doubleheader losses of 8-4 and 7-3 to the Tigers. But that aside, Prairie View has clearly righted its ship. The 9-11 Panthers are now 6-6 in SWAC play and remain third in the SWAC’s Western Division after winning three of their first four SWAC series, and five of their previous seven contests. Two of those league series victories came against divisional frontrunners Southern and, yes, Texas Southern.

Contrast that with the last few years. Prairie View was just 21-25 in Cullivan’s first season, then collapsed to an awful 12-35 last year — failing to qualify for the SWAC baseball tournament in both times. The Panthers have a team ERA of 5.93, a marked improvement from their 7.33 mark of a year ago, behind a rotation that includes juco transfers Michael Listi (3-2, 4.32 ERA) and Derrick Mitchell (3-2, 5.00), and senior Ben Blackburn (1-2, 3.33).

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