Southern is antsy to get baseball season off to a belated start.
The Jaguars’ only game action was a 6-0 exhibition victory against Baton Rouge Community College last Friday at Lee-Hines Field.
They didn’t open the season last weekend as they normally would have because the MLB Urban Invitational in New Orleans was pushed back a week, thanks to a conflict with Mardi Gras.
Then cold, wet weather forced the postponement of the scheduled opener at Nicholls State on Tuesday.
So barring something unforeseen, Southern will play its first real game against Grambling at 3 p.m. Friday in the Urban Invitational at the MLB Urban Youth Academy.
Jaguars coach Roger Cador said he likes what he has seen — especially in terms of pitching and defense — in numerous intrasquad games as well as the exhibition. But it’s time to see how that translates into real competition.
Cador learned Thursday that his closer, right-hander Rafeal Diaz, sustained a fracture to the middle finger of his left hand working out earlier this week and will be sidelined for two weeks. Senior right-hander James Fontenot will move from his setup role to the closer’s role in Diaz’s absence.
“Anytime you lose your closer, it’s a big adjustment to the staff,” Cador said. “So it does change things, but it’s early and we’ll be able to make adjustments.”
The bullpen had already adjusted to freshman Daniel Franklin assuming the Sunday starter’s role while Omar Ugarte is sidelined by a sore shoulder.
So the bridge between the starting pitching and Fontenot “is a group thing,” Cador said.
First-year pitching coach Dan Canevari was encouraged by what he saw from four freshman pitchers against BRCC. Tyler Robinson and Joseph Sanchez each threw two scoreless innings and Justin Freeman and Jacob Wallace each threw one before Fontenot and Diaz finished with a scoreless inning apiece.
“What I was really pleased with and I know coach Cador was pleased with is we threw a lot of strikes,” Canevari said. “We had good mound composure and everybody experienced some success, so they’ll have a lot of confidence going in. They were nervous, but they got through it. The biggest thing is that we fielded the ball well.”
The defense could be busy with sophomore left-hander J’Markus George starting Friday.
“He’s not a strikeout pitcher; he’s going to have to rely on his defense,” Canevari said. “J’Markus is a real competitive kid. He’s going to throw three pitches in the zone — fastball, curveball and changeup. He’s a good, solid college pitcher.
“The big thing is he is left-handed. He’s going to hold runners on and he’s a good athlete so he’s going to field his position and give us a chance to win.”
Even though Southern hasn’t played a regular-season game, Canevari said the pitchers have gotten sufficient work that he hopes to get five or six innings out of the starters. _itch counts won’t come into play unless someone gets into the 80-100 pitch range.
Senior right-hnader Santos Saldivar, who will be the Game 1 starter when Southwestern Athletic Conference play begins next week, will start against UNO on Saturday.
“It’s UNO and it’s on national TV (MLB Network),” Canevari said. “The kid’s a senior and he has been a No. 1 and he deserves that opportunity, and as a program you want to put your best foot forward.”
Franklin will start when the Jaguars face Alcorn State on Sunday to complete the round-robin tournament.
Southern (0-0) vs. Grambling (1-3)
WHEN: 3 p.m. Friday
WHERE: MLB Urban Youth Academy
STARTING PITCHERS: Southern, So. LH J’Markus George (1-4, 7.34 last season) vs. Grambling, TBD
WHAT TO WATCH: Grambling has already played four games and Southern has played just one exhibition. The Jaguars are hopeful that C Jose de la Torre and infielders Bud Morton and Robinson Mateo will be academically certified before the team leaves campus at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
IN THE HOLE: at UNO, 6 p.m. Saturday
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.