PINE BLUFF, Ark. — On a bitter cold day, Southern starter Jose De Leon wanted to go back out for the eighth inning after throwing a steady diet of fastballs in a pitchers’ duel, eager to hang on for his first win.
SU coach Roger Cador, though, looked at De Leon’s pitch count, already past 100, and said enough. And after all, Cador had steady bullpen hand Santos Saldivar ready to come in, ready to replicate what he’d done earlier in the day.
Saldivar saved two games as Southern opened Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division play with a doubleheader sweep of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 11-9 and 2-0.
Saldivar helped the Jaguars (5-4, 2-0) hang on in the first game after Southern saw an eight-run lead whittled to three. He struck out one and walked one in one scoreless inning in the first game, and he got two more scoreless innings in the second game, with nine pitches in the eighth and 12 in the ninth. Saldivar allowed two hits and struck out two.
“He was very effective,” Cador said of Saldivar. “He came in with two quality innings. So he got us out of there.”
Southern got two strong starts to set the tone as the Jaguars never trailed.
Jesse Holiday (2-1) allowed only one run in the first six innings as the Jaguars built a 9-1 lead before giving up three runs in the seventh. Cador said: “Through six innings, Doc Holiday pitched as fine a game as could be expected.”
And De Leon (1-2) was even better, scattering three hits, with two walks and five strikeouts in seven innings.
“He was trying to convince me to go back out in the eighth ... but we want to be careful, especially this early in the year. ... He was strong,” Cador said. “It was a cool day. He had thrown mainly fastballs, so he wasn’t overextending his arm.”
In the first game, Southern leadoff hitter Sean Washington went 2-for-4 with a triple, a double, three runs and an RBI. His leadoff double ignited a four-run first inning, and his leadoff walk began a five-run fifth. And Brian Rowry was 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs.
In the second game, Brian Rowry scored on an error in the fourth inning — UAPB’s second consecutive two-out error of the inning — and Jose De La Torre had a sacrifice fly to score Washington.
“They found ways to win (Saturday), and that’s important,” Cador said. “We did it with different lineups. ... Two different situations. We scored some runs in Game 1. And in Game 2, when we pitched really well, we were able to maintain the lead.”
SU and UAPB (2-9, 0-2) play again at 1 p.m. Sunday — after a day in which temperatures dipped to 36 degrees in the first game.
“This is our longest road trip, and we’re happy to get a couple wins behind us already,” Cador said.