Friday night is two years in the making for Mac Sceroler.
In 2015, the Southeastern Louisiana pitcher made a name for himself as the Lions' closer, earning a spot on the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team.
He was promoted to Southeastern’s Saturday starter for his sophomore year, and he was arguably the team’s most consistent arm, winning 10 games and striking out 93.
Sceroler was selected in the 36th round of the MLB draft by the Philadelphia Phillies last summer. But he decided to forego a chance at professional baseball, all for Friday night — when he begins his run as the Lions' Friday night ace against Louisiana-Lafayette at Alumni Field.
“It won’t really hit me until Friday night when UL comes in here and we go toe-to-toe with another ballclub,” Sceroler said. "(The biggest difference) is everybody looking up to you. Friday night, everybody looks up to you, no matter what ballclub you pitch for. All those guys are looking up to me, so I have to come in every day, get my work in, do everything right because you never know who’s watching you.”
The two young starters who join Sceroler, at least for the opening weekend, are former closer Kade Granier and Payton Robinson. Josh Green will fill Granier’s old role as closer.
They’ll be a key part of Southeastern’s push to return to the top of the Southland Conference. The Lions were picked to finish second behind defending tournament champion Sam Houston State.
“They’ll be the one with the target on their backs, like we were last year,” said coach Matt Riser, referring to Southeastern winning the 2015 regular-season title and 2014 tournament crown.
The biggest question for the Lions: What will life without Jameson Fisher look like?
Fisher fell just short of the NCAA batting title last season with a second-best .424 average after leading the nation for most of the year. Offensively, Fisher was the driving force behind the school’s first at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after leading the Lions in not only average but hits (84), doubles (16), home runs (11), RBIs (66), slugging percentage (.692) and on-base percentage (.558).
On the field, Scottie Sanders and Derrick Mount will take Fisher’s place on first base. But at the plate, it will be a group effort.
“You don’t replace a Jameson Fisher with a signee,” Riser said. “You develop that guy. With a guy like Jameson, obviously he had a career that’s going to last for decades, if not forever. But you have to hope that the guys returning, with as much depth as we’re returning, will step up to replace that offense.”
Riser said this is the most experience he has had return at Southeastern. The Lions lost three catchers and their starting designated hitter, but beside that, the only other significant losses were to the pitching staff.
“You don’t want to say 'comfortable;' you have to bring it every day, but I’m happy with where we’re at,” senior outfielder Webb Bobo said. “No matter if we blow ULL out on Friday night or if we get blown out, we’re going to compete.”