Southern right-hander Santos Saldivar said pitching coach Dan Canevari “lit a fire” under him before Saturday’s doubleheader against Grambling.
“Coach Canevari told me in front of the whole team that I’m not as good as I think I am because I’m 0-5,” Saldivar said with a smile. “He was just trying to light a fire under my butt to come out and pitch the best game of my career.”
Now Saldivar is 1-5 after responding with a career-high 13 strikeouts in a complete-game 10-1 victory that snapped a team-wide five-game losing streak.
The rest of the Jaguars seemed to a have a pretty good fire going underneath them, too, as they won the second game 9-6.
“It’s great to be on the winning side,” said outfielder D.J. Wallace, who hit a two-run homer to trigger a season-best seven-run sixth inning that settled the first game.
Jose de la Torre and Robinson Mateo homered in the second game to back James Fontenot (3-1), who gave up just one earned run in six innings.
The sweep improved Southern — which began the day tied with Grambling for fourth place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference West Division — to 5-15 overall and 4-6 in divisional play. The Jaguars visit McNeese State on Tuesday.
The Tigers are 4-20 and 2-8.
Freshman right-hander Tyler Robinson will start for Southern in the series finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“This could be something that helps build them up,” coach Roger Cador said of the Jaguars. “I’m proud of what they did today. The key is to come back and play the same way tomorrow.”
Southern was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the first game before Wallace’s two-run homer, Tyler Kirksey’s two-run double and four Tigers errors extended the Jaguars lead to 9-1 after seven.
Wallace said he has been hampered by a callous that split open on the inside of his left index finger, but after getting treatment Saturday morning he said it felt the best it has in a month.
“I was thinking it’s now or never,” Wallace said of his sixth-inning at-bat. “If we don’t score there, they could capitalize and the momentum could go the other way. The pitcher tried to sneak a curveball past me, and I just went with it.”
Southern had smooth sailing after that and was leading the second game 6-2 when Grambling’s bats came alive in the eighth inning. Jaiden France led off with a double and Robert Lopez followed with an RBI single, finishing Jamaun Banks, who had come on to pitch a scoreless seventh.
Ryan Flynn relieved and allowed a walk, which was followed by a passed ball and a double-play grounder that brought in another run. Desmond Stegall singled and Rafeal Diaz relieved Flynn.
Stegall stole second and scored when third baseman Rivers Frederick made a throwing error on Edwin Drexler’s infield hit. Drexler stole third, but stayed there as Diaz struck out Angel Peguero.
Diaz got a cushion when Lance Jones hit a two-out, two-run triple and scored on Kirksey’s RBI single in the bottom half.
“I was trying to be aggressive and look for my pitch,” Jones said. “When the count went to 2-0, I knew he was going to throw me a fastball, and I was ready for it.”
Diaz gave up a run in the ninth but got his second save.
Wallace’s RBI single in the first, de la Torre’s solo homer in the third and Webster’s two-run homer off the scoreboard in right in the fourth gave Fontenot a 4-0 lead through four. He gave up two runs in the fourth and faced a bases-loaded situation against Drexler with two out in the sixth.
“I wasn’t going to take him out because I wanted to see how he would handle the situation,” Cador said. “He fared well.”
Drexler grounded back to Fontenot.
“That was huge,” Fontenot said. “I tried to hit my spot with my two-seam and he hit the ball hard, but luckily it was right to me. The baseball gods were with us today.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.