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LSU, UNO take wins to wrap 2014 Urban Invitational

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU and UNO closed out the 2014 MLB Urban Invitational with victories at Alex Box Stadium on Sunday, giving Privateer coach Ron Maestri his first win since 1985 and LSU a 3-0 start to its season.

"It's been a long rest," Maestri joked after UNO defeated Southern, 9-1. "I'm just happy for the kids. We did the little things that we needed to do, and that's exciting. It's a learning process for them, but I really felt good about the way we executed."

Maestri took the reins of the UNO program in June after a 28-year absence from baseball. He had previously coached the Privateers from 1970-84 before becoming the school's athletic director.

To notch that first victory in nearly 30 years, Maestri defeated longtime friend and Southern University coach Roger Cador, who quipped he was "honored" to lose to such a legend and be in the opposing dugout when Maestri picked up the victory.

In the second game of the afternoon, the Tigers shut out Grambling, 6-0, behind six strong innings from freshman starter Jared Poche and spectacular defensive plays from freshman second baseman Kramer Robertson.

Robertson tracked a foul ball all the way to the bullpen in the third, making a sliding catch on his back, all the while avoiding a collision with the wall. He added a leaping catch of a liner in the sixth to quell a Grambling rally, and a backhand stab of a grounder destined for center field in the seventh.

Both Cador and Maestri lauded the Urban Youth Invitational, saying it not only gave their universities attention but also put on a display for inner-city children yearning to play baseball.

"We're on national TV here," Maestri said. "It helps our program and helps the university. It's great to help [the Urban Youth Academy]. They've got a great program with what they're trying to do."

"The fact that they're trying to promote more African-American kids into baseball, and the fact that it's on TV and a lot of kids around the country got to see this game, is excellent," Cador added. "They've done a good job. Seven years strong, and we've been involved every year."

Chandler Rome is a contributor to