Roger Cador is preparing to start his 30th season as Southern’s baseball coach.
He’s coming off one of his most difficult seasons in which the Jaguars finished 10-26 and 6-16 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, failing to qualify for the conference tournament.
It remains to be seen if Southern is ready to compete for the SWAC title this season, but Cador seems invigorated by a team he says should be improved over last year.
“When you get to 30 years that’s a special place to be for a coach,” Cador said Wednesday. “Not too many coaches make it 30 years. I’ve got the energy. I’m ready to make it happen.”
Cador has his third coaching staff in as many seasons. Pitching coach Dan Canevari, a former LSU assistant, and hitting coach, Jason Anderson, who played for Cador, have an opportunity that Rick Greene and Mike Partida didn’t have in those same positions last season.
Canevari and Anderson have been on board since last July, whereas Greene and Partida weren’t hired until last January.
“These kids feel very comfortable with them,” Cador said. “They listen, and that’s a huge thing. They’ve had time with them because they’ve been with them from day one.
“Last year was unfair because those guys came in in January. That’s a difficult task for anybody to come in when you only have three weeks of practice and you’re playing. They don’t know the kids, and the kids don’t know them.”
The Jaguars won their first two games last season, then everything went downhill as they lost 10 straight and started 1-9 in the SWAC.
“The thing is, we played good for seven innings, but we had no ability to finish games,” Cador said. “We made a ton of errors on top of that. That was the downfall.
“I bet we made 80 errors between shortstop and third base last year. It’s improved so much. In this league, you have to be strong at short and third. Now I feel extremely confident in that.”
Injuries didn’t help last season as D.J. Wallace was the only one of the top four outfielders to stay healthy.
“The key is whether we can come to the park every day understanding that in order to have a chance to be successful we have to be unified,” Cador said. “Can we play together as a unit? It’s all for one and one for all.
“They genuinely care about each other. They’re happy with each other and they really have worked hard.”
Cador said this team is embracing “the little things,” such as taking the extra base, hitting the cut-off man and successfully bunting runners over, the way he had hoped last year’s team would.
“We have to keep the mental mistakes to a minimum,” Cador said. “We had a lot of physical and mental mistakes. If you don’t give your opponents runs you’ll be tough to beat.
“The one thing I notice in the intrasquads is we’re not making a bunch of errors. We’re not kicking the ball around. To me that speaks volumes. I’m really impressed with what they’re doing.”
Cador said the little things could become bigger because he’s unsure about the Jaguars ability to generate runs on a consistent basis.
“Can we score four or five runs on a given day? That’s going to be my biggest question mark right now,” he said.
Cador said he’s eager to see what this team looks like against an opponent. Southern hosts Baton Rouge Community College in an exhibition Friday and visits Nicholls State in the season opener Tuesday.
“You really don’t know with young people until you put them out there,” he said. “I watch them practice and my experience tells me, based on what I’ve seen with the practice, that they’ll do well because they’re going to compete. If you compete you’ve got a chance.
“Now, we’re not the most talented team, but I know in baseball talent doesn’t always win. It’s execution and good pitching that wins. If we can pitch and defend we’ll do quite well.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.