Taking ‘baby steps,’ Southern baseball team looks for more as it visits Loyola _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern coach Roger Cador

The Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu ordered the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2580 B.C.

Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang is credited for starting construction on the Great Wall of China in 221 B.C.

France began digging the Panama Canal in 1881 before the U.S. took over in 1904.

Today, these monuments stand as a testament to what man can achieve in the face of extreme adversity when overwhelming demands are placed on them.

Southern baseball coach Roger Cador reminds his players every year about these three great achievements.

And in 2017, he is putting great demands on the Jaguars.

Cador wants the Jaguars to know the way he pushes them isn’t out of spite, but rather a desire to see them achieve what they see as impossible.

“If those people can do it,” Cador said, “then we can do a lot of good things, too. They were built by people just like them because someone in my position made demands.

“If I don’t make demands, they’ll give very little.”

Cador has spent the past few years desperately trying to rebuild the once-proud Southern baseball program after tough times ravaged the Jaguars, most notably the barrage of sanctions and punishments handed down by the NCAA.

Southern hasn't won a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship since 2009, the longest drought in school history for a program that’s won more titles than any other in the league.

The Jaguars may not be completely out from under the thumb of the NCAA — they won’t have their full range of scholarships until 2018, at the earliest, and will still be under probation — but Cador believes he’s seen significant improvement since purging the roster before last season.

That improvement will be put to the test at 6 p.m. Friday when Southern opens its season at UNO as part of the MLB Urban Youth Invitational.

They’ll also play Grambling on Saturday and Alcorn State on Sunday.

“We need to be able to execute and pitch well and play defense and get timely hitting,” Cador. “I know all of those things may not take place, but every coach has that aspiration that his team will do that because that’s the blueprint that you build a team on.”

Southern right-hander Harold Myles will have the duty of trying to contain the Privateers’ offense Friday.

UNO was one of the nation’s best teams at the plate last season, hitting a Southland Conference-best .300 average, good for 33rd in Division I.

Myles struggled in 2016 with a 10.43 ERA and a .366 opposing batting average, which led to a 1-8 record through 10 starts — all lows for a member of the weekend rotation.

But Myles says he knows starting the season with a solid performance would be an important statement.

“It feels good (to get the opening start) because it starts the tempo for the team,” Myles said. “The first game is always the most important because you build off the first game. Everybody knows it’s important to win those first three games so we can start the season off right.”

Cador is less interested in a win than the Jaguars coming out strong and competing.

After losing only two seniors last year, Cador didn’t have to make many decisions on the starting lineup.

Nicholls State transfer Bobby Johnson will start behind the plate. Freshman Ryan Watts earned the nod at first base, while sophomore Johnathan Crain will be the designated hitter.

“It’s extremely important (to get off on the right foot), but if it doesn’t happen, you can’t push the panic button,” Cador said. “This team will be better down the road. It will get better.

“Historically, my teams always have a slow start and get better as we play the season.”

Follow Mike Gegenheimer on Twitter, @Mike_Gegs.