The new low-seam baseballs made their long-awaited debut at Lee-Hines Field on Saturday afternoon.
How much that had to do with increased productivity from the hitters is uncertain — but in any event, it worked out well for South Dakota State, which swept Southern 12-5 and 12-6 a day after winning the series opener 3-0.
“(On Friday), the wind was blowing in from left field and it was colder,” South Dakota State coach Dave Schrage said. “Today was warmer and there was no wind.
“I was happy overall with our at-bats. We had been struggling and we did a better job at swinging at the right pitches.”
The teams played with the high-seam baseballs the Jaguars used last season Friday because their shipment of the new balls, which have generally carried farther than the old ones, were late in arriving.
The improving weather led the coaches to shorten the second game of the doubleheader, which was moved from Sunday because of the expectation of rain, to seven innings and schedule a nine-inning game for 1 p.m. Sunday. The Jackrabbits are 5-5 and the Jaguars are 1-10.
Southern is also concerned that the forecast for rain much of the early part of the week could jeopardize its game against UL-Lafayette on Wednesday at Lee-Hines Field.
After Jose de la Torre’s homer gave the Jaguars a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the second game, Luke Ringhofer hit a two-run homer as the Jackrabbits scored three against Justin Freeman (0-1) in the second.
“This was the first seven-inning game we’ve played all year,” Schrage said. “So I told them between games we’ve got to score early — because if you don’t, all of a sudden it’s the fifth inning and it’s anybody’s game. So let’s go out and score early.”
Quincy Jones’ RBI-single got Southern within one before South Dakota State knocked out Freeman during a seven-run third in which he walked in two runs.
“Freeman left a couple of pitches over the plate and they hurt him,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “Then he tried to overthrow and started walking people, and then they really made us pay for it.”
In the first game, the Jackrabbits scored three runs against J’Markus George (0-3) in the top of the first and never relinquished the lead.
Tony Kjolsing had three hits, three runs batted in and two runs. Eric Danforth had three hits and scored three times, Matt Johnson had three hits, an RBI and a run and Reid Clary drove in three runs.
Southern outfielder D.J. Wallace — whom Cador removed from Friday’s game after Wallace cursed him in the wake of a base-running blunder — was back in the lineup and had three hits and three RBIs in the first game and finished 3-for-7.
“I don’t hold grudges against kids,” Cador said. “He served his punishment. He got embarrassed in front of teammates. It wasn’t necessary to continue punishing him.”
Wallace and Cador talked before the first game.
“I’m glad he let me sit down,” Wallace said. “I was a man about it and apologized. I told him I was disrespectful and he listened. He said what he had to say and I said what I needed to say. It’s good-blooded. We’re headed in the right direction.”
South Dakota State starter Chris Anderson (2-1) allowed eight hits and four runs, three earned, in six innings. Andrew Clemen gave up one run in two innings and Ethan Kenkel pitched a scoreless ninth.
Kenkel got the last two outs when center Zach Coppola made a leaping catch of de la Torre’s drive to the center-field wall and Marcus Tomlin was doubled off of first.
It was a fitting end to a game in which the Jaguars had three other runners thrown out on the bases, committed three errors and threw two wild pitches.
“We can’t make plays,” Cador said. “We keep compounding stuff and putting pressure on our young pitchers and we’re not scoring runs. We’re not able to put two or three phases together for a whole game to make us successful.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.