The Southern baseball team began the weekend by riding the pitching of Daniel Franklin to a victory over Prairie View.
On Saturday, the Jaguars hitters led the way in a 16-5 blowout of the Panthers at Lee-Hines Field that was shortened to 6½ innings because of the Southwestern Athletic Conference mercy rule.
Despite the smaller timeframe, Southern scored its most runs in game this season thanks to a passive-aggressive approach.
Before the first pitch, Jaguars coach Roger Cador reminded his batters of the control problems Panthers starter Charles Philpott had when he faced them March 12 in Prairie View, Texas. Philpott walked five and lasted just 3.2 innings in Southern’s 9-2 win.
“I told them that if we were patient, he would walk us,” Cador said. “It wasn’t that important to swing at the first strike against this guy, and they didn’t.”
This time Philpott, (1-5) lasted just 1.1 innings, walking four and hitting two batters on his way to allowing eight runs. After scoring a run in the first, Southern took command with a nine-run second that featured consecutive bases-loaded walks to Robinson Mateo, Jose de la Torre and Dondrayas Harris, which finished Philpott.
When Edward Robledo relieved Philpott, the Jaguars became more aggressive. Ashanti Wheatley hit Robledo’s first pitch for an RBI single, Franky Montesino added a three-run double and Jacob Juge an RBI triple.
“You have to trust your approach,” Harris said. “Coach Cador always says to be aggressive and that’s what we did and things fell into place for us.”
Harris set the tone in balancing patience and aggression by walking twice against Philpott and adding sandwiching a two-run single and an RBI single around a strikeout against Robledo, who allowed 10 hits and eight runs (six earned) in 4.2 innings.
The Jaguars (10-21, 5-11) broke a tie with Prairie View (10-19, 4-12) for fourth place in the Western Division. They clinched their first SWAC series win of the season going into the series finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“That’s very important,” Harris said. “I think this is a turning point for us. We’ve just been beating ourselves, but now we’re starting to put things together.”
Southern had plenty of offensive contributors besides Harris. Mateo had three hits and drove in two runs; Montesino had two hits and three RBIs; and all but one of the nine starters reached base safely.
But Cador attributed the Jaguars’ increased confidence the last two games to the infield defense, solidified by moving Harris from the outfield to first and inserting Montesino at third.
“I can see improvement in our attitude on defense,” Cador said. “We’re building confidence.”
Harris said he’s confident at first even though he had never played there before Friday.
“It’s different,” said Harris, whose secondary poition in high school was third base. “I was a little nervous at the beginning, but that went away after the first out.”
J’Markus George (4-3) needed 105 pitches to get through five innings as he allowed five hits, three walks and four runs (two earned). Joseph Sanchez pitched a scoreless sixth and Jarod Jarreau allowed an unearned run in the seventh.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.