As he trotted to the mound Tuesday night at Lee-Hines Field, his team trying to keep a one-run lead in the seventh inning, Southern reliever Pedro Fargas knew the deal.
The University of New Orleans had two runners on base and only one out. If Fargas were to get out of the jam, he and the Jaguars had a very real shot at their 11th consecutive victory.
So as he placed his left foot on the rubber, Fargas remembered words of advice from a teammate: Stay focused, and stay loose.
He did both. The Jaguars escaped, and eventually, they nailed down a 4-2 win.
The winning streak lives on.
“Earlier in the year, I wasn’t focused on what I was doing. I wasn’t getting loose,” said Fargas, a 6-foot-3 left-hander from Carolina, Puerto Rico.
“Now I’m just more loose and more focused, and that’s what’s helping me get outs. That’s what’s important.”
One week earlier, the Jaguars led the same UNO team in the seventh inning of a midweek game at Lee-Hines Field. In that game, Fargas relieved starting pitcher Daniel Garcia and promptly retired all nine batters for a three-inning save his first of the season.
Tuesday, on a clear, breezy night, the Privateers (14-17) used six pitchers in an effort to keep SU (26-14) off balance.
For a while, the strategy worked well. D.J. Wallace launched a long home run to center field in the bottom of the second, but that was one of only two hits for Southern during the first five innings.
UNO had a 2-1 lead until the Jaguars pushed across two runs in the bottom of the sixth, aided in part by an error. Left fielder Dan Perkins dropped Cameron McGriffs one-out fly ball, allowing pinch runner Vince Coleman to score. D.J. Wallace followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Derrick Hopkins from third, giving Southern a 3-2 lead.
But Garcia (4-1) again ran into trouble in the seventh, walking two batters. SU coach Roger Cador replaced him with Fargas, who finished the inning with a strikeout and a flyout.
Fargas, in fact, retired seven of the eight batters he faced Tuesday, routinely fooling the Privateers with a slow changeup that often dove out of the strike zone at the last moment.
UNO’s only hit off Fargas came in the ninth inning, when Stefan Farrell tapped a slow roller down the first-base line that stayed fair.
Southern finished off the game with its third double play. The Jaguars take their 11-game streak into a two-game nondivisional weekend series with Jackson State. The first game is Saturday in Jackson; the second game is Sunday at Lee-Hines Field.
“Midweek games can be tough, getting guys up to the level that they just came off of,” Cador said. “So I was extremely conscious of that, and I have to give the players credit. They swung the bats well. They didn’t get a lot of hits. But they didn’t lose focus, and Danny Garcia pitched well enough to keep us there. Garcia gave up two runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Fargas, meanwhile, pitched well enough for his second straight midweek save quite a turnaround for a freshman who lost three of his first four decisions this season.
The big difference-maker? It came during a midseason intrasquad scrimmage, when Fargas, as usual, was lackadaisical in warmups. He started the game by hitting leadoff batter Taylor Roy squarely in the back.
As Roy jogged down the first-base line, he yelled at Fargas, telling the left-hander to concentrate a little harder. Fargas said he got the message.
“He thought I was really mad at him, but I was trying to get him focused,” Roy said. “After that, he didn’t let a guy on base. ... He’s for sure improved.”
So, too, has Southern.
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