Ailing Southern to face red-hot Southeastern _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern coach Roger Cador speaks to plate umpire Jason Rosen as the Jaguars play Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 26 at Lee-Hines Field.

Most college baseball coaches will at least casually glance at a box score following a game and keep familiar with his players’ numbers throughout the season.

Southern coach Roger Cador is not most coaches. He doesn’t pay attention to any statistics.

Cador is fully aware the Jaguars have done a poor job of fielding the ball this year, but he doesn’t concern himself with the fact that they are third-to-last in Division I in terms of fielding percentage (.935), or that their team ERA (6.90) is 279th out of 295.

Of the 21 offensive categories the Southwestern Athletic Conference keeps, Southern ranks in the top half of the conference in five of them: fourth in steal attempts (64), fourth in stolen bases (50), third in triples (10), second in hit by pitches (58) and first in sacrifice flies (19).

There’s no ignoring the Jaguars are in last place in the SWAC Western Division. They enter Wednesday’s game against Nicholls State on a nine-game losing streak, their worst stretch since 2014.

What Cador does worry about is keeping a positive attitude in the clubhouse and setting up the program for more long-term success.

“My thing about them is that the kids don’t need to be beat up with negative stuff more than they already are, so that’s not even something I talk to them about,” Cador said. “I’m not a stat guy. I already know what they aren’t doing well. I don’t need to look at that.”

Cador said it’s possible for Southern (8-21) to make a run at the end of the season, like it did last year when the Jaguars reached the SWAC tournament championship game. But Cador doesn’t expect them to do so after he tore down the roster during the offseason.

What he does expect to see is that his players continue to show determination and competitive drive.

He’s seen some glimmers throughout the year.

Cador said he was proud of the way Southern fought in its 16-11 loss to Grambling on Sunday after going down 11-0 by the middle of the fourth inning.

In the Jaguars’ first meeting with Nicholls on March 18, they had a chance to win the game in the ninth inning before the Colonels followed with a game-ending single. Nicholls won 9-8 in Thibodaux.

“The midweek game is what it is,” Cador said. “It’s really a learning experience for our young people. It’s fairly good competition, and we’re just trying to get better.”

Troy Lewis, the team’s regular closer, will make his first start of the season Wednesday.

Cador said he hopes letting Lewis start a game and throw for two to three innings will help boost his confidence, which has dropped lately (he plays third base when he doesn’t pitch).

With Lewis moving to the mound, third base becomes open for Franky Montesino or Marcus Hodge.

The Jaguars will also experiment with outfielders Anthony Valdes or Dondrayas Harris at first base.

First base has been a problem for Southern all season, and Cador expects more experimentation there for the rest of the year.

“We’re trying to fix that position,” Cador said. “We’re trying different things until something works.”