Red-hot Southern hosts Jackson State _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Theo Smith beats the attempted tag at third base by Grambling's Jaiden France on Sunday, March 29, 2015, at Lee-Hines Field.

The last time the Southern baseball team played Jackson State, it lost its fifth straight game.

The Jaguars fell 11-5 on March 24 in Jackson, Mississippi, and there seemed to be little hope for a team that was routinely getting outplayed in every phase of the game.

But just two weeks later, Southern has turned things 180 degrees as it prepares to face the Tigers at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Lee-Hines Field.

The Jaguars (10-15) are 7-0 since losing to Jackson State (20-11), and the statistics show just how dramatically their play has improved.

During the streak, Southern is batting .301 compared to .246 during its 3-15 start. It has hit 11 homers in the seven wins compared to six in the first 18 games. Opposing pitchers had a 4.02 ERA before the win streak, but during the streak their ERA is 6.49.

“They’ve had better concentration and, as a result, they’re swinging at more strikes,” Jaguars coach Roger Cador said of his hitters. “They’re a little more relaxed.”

The pitching improvement has been nearly as dramatic. During the streak, Jaguars pitchers have an ERA of 2.80 after posting a 6.17 mark before that.

Cador and pitching coach Dan Canevari have an opportunity to look at a lot of pitchers because Southern has two midweek games this week. This game does not count as a SWAC game, and the Jaguars host UL-Lafayette on Wednesday in a game that was postponed March 11 because of bad weather.

Southern is considering starting closer Rafael Diaz against JSU so “he can smooth out a couple of wrinkles in his delivery,” Cador said.

Cador said they’d like to see Diaz, who gave up two hits and two runs in pitching the final 1.1 innings of an 8-7 win at Prairie View on Saturday, throw three or four innings.

J’Markus George will take over the closer’s role temporarily, and Justin Freeman will set him up.

The victory Saturday not only extended the Jaguars’ win streak to seven, it improved their record in one-run games to 3-0.

All of those games have occurred during the streak.

“We were fighting for our lives (before the winning streak),” outfielder Tyler Kirksey said. “We had shown we were a good team in practice, but we hadn’t transferred that to the games.”

Now they have.

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.