Southern plays final SWAC series at Grambling _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern starting pitcher Tyler Robinson throws a pitch to a Grambling batter in 2015.

The Southern baseball team wraps up Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season play with a series at Grambling that starts with a doubleheader at noon Saturday.

This series has no measurable impact on the Jaguars’ SWAC fortunes because they are locked into the second seed from the West Division for the conference tournament, which begins in 11 days in New Orleans.

Southern (13-22, 10-8 SWAC) can’t catch second-place Texas Southern (14-6). Fourth-place Grambling (7-14, 9-30) can’t catch the Jaguars. First-place Arkansas-Pine Bluff is ineligible for the conference tournament.

Senior right-hander Santos Saldivar said his experience has been that the specific seed doesn’t make a big difference anyway.

“My freshman and sophomore seasons, we won our side and still wound up not making it to the championship,” he said. “So I don’t think it matters what seed you are. It’s just how hot you are in the tournament. That’s all that matters. In the tournament, anybody can beat anybody.”

Southern, which failed to qualify for the SWAC tournament last season, is hoping this series can be a springboard.

The last time Southern and Grambling met, the Jaguars swept three games at Lee-Hines Field on March 28-29 and turned their season around. That began an eight-game win streak against SWAC competition.

But that win streak ended as the Jaguars lost both games of a rain-shortened series at Texas Southern last weekend. That series was played between nonconference losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and McNeese State, leaving Southern with a four-game losing streak entering the weekend.

But with this series, nonconference games against Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana and at least two exhibitions in the next week and a half, the Jaguars have opportunities to get back on track before the conference tournament.

Even if Southern were to win the SWAC tournament, it would be unable to accept the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because it is on NCAA probation.

Coach Roger Cador said Friday he will tweak his pitching rotation this weekend. Saldivar will go from being the No. 1 starter to the closer to give him a break — and because regular closer Rafael Diaz has struggled of late.

No. 2 starter James Fontenot will also go to the bullpen, and Tyler Robinson and J’Markus George will start Saturday. Diaz might get the Sunday start.

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.