Southern baseball team finally returns to diamond with doubleheader vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern's Tyler Kirksey makes contact during a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last season. The teams begin a doubleheader at noon Sunday.

The Southern baseball team has had an unusually long break from games and especially Southwestern Athletic Conference games.

The Jaguars hope the departure of week-long rain enables them to return to Lee-Hines Field and play a conference doubleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at noon Sunday.

Southern (11-18, 8-6 SWAC) hasn’t played a game since splitting a nonconference doubleheader against Loyola last Saturday and hasn’t played a conference game since winning at Prairie View 8-7 on April 4 to complete a series sweep.

“We really need to play in the worst way,” coach Roger Cador said Saturday. “I hope we’re not rusty. We’ve just hit in the cages all week because we haven’t been able to get on the field.”

The Golden Lions (19-12, 13-3) lead the Western Division. They have won their last eight games, including a four-game sweep against Prairie View last weekend and a three-game sweep against Texas Southern the weekend before that.

The Jaguars swept their last SWAC series, which completed a seven-game win streak. After that they lost to Jackson State and Louisiana-Lafayette before the split against Loyola.

This was supposed to be a busy week for Southern, but rain canceled a midweek exhibition against Baton Rouge Community College, a nonconference game against UNO and the series opener against UAPB.

The lack of games enabled the players to concentrate on academics and the coaches to concentrate on recruiting, but now the focus is on regaining the form Southern showed during the win streak with the SWAC tournament less than four weeks away.

Outfielder D.J. Wallace, Southern’s cleanup hitter, is expected back in the lineup for the first time since leaving the game against Jackson State after injuring his face in a slide and experiencing dizziness.

“Having D.J. back in the lineup ought to help,” Cador said.

The Jaguars plan to start senior right-handers Santos Saldivar and James Fontenot.

Saldivar (2-5) hasn’t started since getting a complete-game victory in the series opener at Prairie View on April 3, though he did throw two scoreless innings to get a save against Loyola. In his last outing, Fontenot (4-2) gave up six runs in eight innings to take the loss against Loyola.

The shortening of the series enables Cador to bring his third weekend starter, freshman right-hander Tyler Robinson, out of the bullpen.

These teams split a doubleheader in Pine Bluff on March 12. UAPB won the first game 2-0 and Southern won the second game 7-2.

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.