Having already handed Southern a lopsided loss in the first game of Saturday’s baseball doubleheader, Arkansas-Pine Bluff trailed the second game by three runs going into the eighth inning.
But the Golden Lions rallied for three quick runs to force a 5-5 tie, chasing Southern ace Jose De Leon in the process.
“Almost a disaster,” SU coach Roger Cador said afterward.
Junior outfielder Sean Washington saved the day with a two-run, two-out homer in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Jaguars to hold on for a 7-5 win and salvage a split with UAPB to start a three-game Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division series at Lee-Hines Field.
The Lions used an eight-run outburst in the seventh to score a 9-1 rout of Southern in Saturday’s first game.
SU struck for four runs in the first inning of the second game and appeared to be in control, but UAPB had the Jaguars in danger of being swept after knocking De Leon out the game.
UAPB coach Carlos James said the strategy in the second game was to work the pitch count against De Leon and try to do some damage after getting into the Southern bullpen.
“It was like a prizefight,” he said. “You play the big, bad heavyweight champion of the league, you just kind of spar with him. You pick your chances and try to get him out.”
The Lions did, but Washington had the last say.
Southern, which hadn’t played a game in 12 days, will look to take its third straight Western Division series when the Jaguars (12-11, 8-6) and Lions (9-19, 4-6) complete the three-game set at 1 p.m. Sunday.
UAPB 9, SOUTHERN 1: Isias Alcantar, the Lions’ top hitter, had a double, a homer, four RBIs and scored twice — all in the seventh inning.
Alcantar started the eight-run outburst with a leadoff double and scored the first run of the inning on a Jeremy Lopez throwing error. Two outs later, he capped the rally with a grand slam.
Leading only 1-0 when the inning began, UAPB was up nine by the time Southern had its turn to bat in the seventh.
Southern starter Jesse “Doc” Holliday left with nobody out in the seventh and was charged with giving up five runs. John Thigpen gave up the grand slam.
UAPB starter Jim Ploeger picked up where he left off in a complete-game 5-1 victory over Texas Southern two weeks earlier.
The senior left-hander went the distance again Saturday to earn his fourth win, allowing five hits, striking out eight and walking none. His strikeout of Brian Rowry completed a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Southern got its only run of the game on an RBI double by Gavin Webster in the seventh.
SOUTHERN 7, UAPB 5: Known for his speed on the base paths, Washington entered Saturday as the team leader in doubles and triples. He picked just the right time to launch his first home run.
UAPB reliever Grant Glass had two outs and nobody on when Harley Wiltz singled for his first hit of the day. Up came Washington, batting in the No. 9 hole.
“All I was really trying to do was put a good swing on the ball and get the next guy up,” Washington said. “I just happened to barrel it up.”
James went to five more pitchers after Southern chased UAPB starter Andrew Buehler with four runs in the first. Cador needed only De Leon for the first seven-plus innings.
But the Lions finally got to De Leon, who left with two on and two out in the eighth.
Reliever Josh Powell then surrendered a two-run double by Wayne Stehn to score the second and third UAPB runs of the inning.