Southern plays final SWAC series at Grambling _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern starting pitcher Tyler Robinson throws a pitch to a Grambling batter in 2015.

After a tumultuous regular season for the Southern baseball team, the Jaguars will travel to New Orleans for the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament without one of their top pitchers.

Freshman Tyler Robinson was ruled academically ineligible after falling below the required 12 hours for student-athletes as Southern heads into the conference tournament Wednesday. The Jaguars will open play in the double-elimination event with two-time defending tournament champion Jackson State at 9 a.m. at Wesley Barrow Stadium.

“Certainly we’re going to have to go a different route than we planned to,” Southern coach Roger Cador said Monday. “When the team is depending on someone and they’re not around, it does a disservice to the team. We’re hoping now the next guy steps up and does the job.”

Cador said he had not decided who will take Robinson’s spot in the rotation. Robinson (5-1) was second among Southern starters with a 3.18 ERA. He allowed 33 runs on 69 hits while striking out 30 batters.

The Jaguars also have to figure out a way past a Jackson State squad that beat them twice this season by a combined score of 23-14. Cador remained confident about his team’s chances, citing midweek experimentation as a major issue in the previous meetings.

This time around, the Jaguars are more comfortable with their lineup, especially after finishing the season on a four-game winning streak.

“I’m not really concerned that they best us twice in a year,” Cador said. “It’s all going to depend on how we go in and execute.”

Even if Southern posts its first conference championship since 2009, the Jaguars won’t be able to represent the SWAC in the NCAA tournament. All of the school’s teams remain on an NCAA postseason ban because of issues with the university’s reporting of academic data.

While Cador said the team is still excited to play for a SWAC championship, the postseason ban sets the players up for more disappointment.

“For the kids, I’d like to go (to the SWAC tournament) so hopefully they can win and say they accomplished something,” Cador said. “But then that’s where the disappointment sets in. If you win it and you can’t go (to the NCAA tournament), then you’re more disappointed that you can’t go represent the conference. It’s a double-edged sword — damned if you don’t, damned if you do.”