Southern University pitcher Santos Saldivar had to fight back his emotions as he walked off Lee-Hines Field for the last time in his career.
In a season filled with more downs than ups, Saldivar sent the Jaguars (17-22) out on a high note, throwing a complete game in Southern’s 5-1 win against Southeastern Louisiana (36-14) in the team’s final regular-season outing.
“I was just doing it for the team,” Saldivar said. “There’s nine seniors out here — I was doing it for them.”
The senior set a Southern single-season record with 104 strikeouts after retiring 13 Lions on Wednesday night. The total puts him one strikeout ahead of Jose DeLeon’s record set in 2012.
Saldivar allowed six hits and a walk.
But possibly more impressive than Saldivar’s stats was the stamina and determination he showed on the mound all night.
The Jaguars’ ace threw 142 pitches in a game in which he was originally supposed to go only five innings.
Southern coach Roger Cador, who called Saldivar’s performance one of the best he’s seen in 30 years of coaching, said letting him go a full nine innings was well worth the possibility of over-throwing him.
But even if there were discussion of pulling Saldivar, Cador said the pitcher wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
“When you’re running on adrenaline, I could be at 160 and I’m still out there throwing,” Saldivar said. “When you have a team like that supporting you, it doesn’t matter how many pitches you’ve got, you’re going to give out your heart on there.”
Southeastern coach Matt Riser tipped his hat to Saldivar after the game, saying the hurler wanted the win more than they did — something Riser took full blame for.
Only two Southeastern runners moved past second base all night, including its lone run in the fourth inning by first baseman Kevin Carr off a Brett Hoffman double to center field.
“When we go out and play like we did today, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing a 10-year-old club or the New York Yankees, we’re going to get beat,” Riser said. “I think that’s the point that was most disappointing.”
Southern’s seven hits, combined with the three errors Southeastern committed, set the stage for a much more productive night for the Jaguars.
Southern jumped to a 4-0 lead in the third inning after catcher Jose DeLa Torre slapped a line drive to the left-field corner for a three-run double.
The Jaguars had previously put an unearned run across the plate in the inning when center fielder Lance Jones scored from third base after Southeastern left fielder Julian Service lost a fly ball in the sun. Jones had reached base on a fielding error by Hoffman to lead off the inning.
Southern put a cap on the scoring in the eighth inning when right fielder D.J. Wallace scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Gavin Webster.
“(Southeastern) made a couple off errors, and that’s what we were able to feed off of, and then we got two key hits,” Cador said. “That’s what we’re looking for: what can we do when teams give us an opportunity.”