Southern baseball team sweeps pair from Grambling _lowres

Advocate file photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Southern pitcher Santos Saldivar struck out a career-high 16 batters Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader sweep of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Whether it was a career-best pitching performance or an offensive outburst, Southern pushed all the right buttons to pull off a doubleheader sweep against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday afternoon at Lee-Hines Field.

In the first game, SU senior right-hander Santos Saldivar stole the show in a 4-3 win.

In the second game, it was the Southern hitters’ turn. Seven of them had at least two his in a 14-9 victory.

The Golden Lions (19-14, 13-5) struck first in the opener after leadoff hitter Rashawn Tillman lined a single to left field. The ball scooted under the glove of SU left fielder Tyler Kirksey, putting a runner in scoring position with no outs.

Later on, Jaguars right fielder D.J. Wallace couldn’t bring in a fly ball near the warning track, leading to a two-run triple. UAPB picked up a third run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning.

But that was all. From there, it was all Saldivar.

One after another, the Golden Lions sent batters to the plate, and Saldivar proceeded to mow them down.

Through five innings, the Pasadena, Texas, native had nine strikeouts. Through six, he had 11. In the top of the eighth inning, Saldivar picked up strikeout No. 15.

He finished with 16, a career high.

And there was no doubt in his mind he was staying in for the ninth.

“I was going to go back in the 10th if we went into extra innings,” Saldivar said.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to extend his arm anymore.

With the winning run on third base in a 3-3 game in the bottom of the ninth, senior second baseman Marcus Tomlin stroked a single up the middle to give the Jaguars (13-18, 10-6) the 4-3 win.

“I didn’t even get out of the dugout,” Saldivar said. “I was tearing up, and I didn’t want (Tomlin) to see me.”

In the second game, SU’s offense made sure to turn on the jets a little earlier.

Whenever the Golden Lions scored, the Jaguars made sure to immediately claw right back.

UAPB took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the third, only to watch SU rebound with a run of its own on a sacrifice fly by sophomore shortstop Robinson Mateo in the bottom half.

Two innings later, the Golden Lions struck again, scoring two runs on a pair of RBI doubles. The Jaguars had a couple of clutch hits of their own: Freshman third baseman Marcus Hodge, senior center fielder Lance Jones and Kirksey all picked up RBI hits in the bottom of the fourth to give SU a 4-3 lead.

And the Jaguars never stopped hitting.

SU strung together 19 hits and 14 runs through the nine-inning affair.

Junior catcher Jose de la Torre and Hodge both hit home runs. Hodge’s three-run shot over the left-field wall in the bottom of the eighth was the final blow in the 14-9 victory.

“We just tried to make an adjustment in Game 2,” Hodge said. “We were taking nice, simple swings and just putting the bat on the ball.”

The Jaguars now have an eight-game winning streak against SWAC competition, and they have a guaranteed spot in the SWAC tournament following Sunday’s victories.

“The players have played well, and they deserve it,” SU coach Roger Cador said. “It’s not anything that we tried to differently other than to motivate them and encourage them. We feel that if we pitch and we defend, then we’ve got a good chance to be successful.”