Southern baseball team hosts Grambling in SWAC opener _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Grambling base runner Desmond Stegall runs into Southern's Robinson mateo at second base after being tagged out last season at Lee-Hines field.

The Southern baseball team’s home opener got pushed back last week when a game against Jackson State was rained out.

Now, unexpectedly, the Jaguars’ home opener has been moved up. It will happen Friday night because renovations to Grambling’s home field weren’t completed on schedule. So the two longtime rivals will begin Southwestern Athletic Conference play at 6 p.m. at Lee-Hines Field in the opener of a three-game series.

“I feel bad for Grambling losing a home series,” Jaguars coach Roger Cador said Thursday. “That’s always tough — especially when it’s a series like Southern, which is probably one of their biggest of the year and they’re not able to play it at home.”

The Tigers (2-5) beat Southern (1-6) 15-0 in a seven-inning, run-rule decision in the season opener, which was part of the MLB Urban Youth Invitational two weeks ago at Wesley Barrow Stadium.

That game didn’t count in the SWAC standings, but it did give Southern fans some cause for concern — even if four everyday players weren’t in the lineup because they had not been academically cleared.

“We should have no problem playing hard after the way we lost to Grambling in the opening game,” Cador said. “You can’t take anything for granted when you play Grambling.”

Cador said he’s leaning toward inserting junior shortstop Phillip Williams into the starting lineup as the designated hitter and leadoff hitter.

The Jaguars have not gotten a walk from the leadoff spot this season.

“That’s not a good stat,” Cador said. “The leadoff spot has been a disaster. Phillip is a pretty good team guy. He understands what we’re looking for. He’ll take pitches. He’s more of a team guy than a self guy and that’s not always easy to do.”

Junior left-hander J’Markus George (0-2, 9.00) will start the opener for Southern. He took the loss in that season opener against Grambling, lasting just two innings and allowing six hits and eight runs (only four were earned).

George pitched better in a loss at Auburn last Friday, lasting five innings and allowing nine hits and 10 runs (only three were earned).

The series will continue with games at noon Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.