Southern visits Arkansas-Pine Bluff looking to clinch berth in SWAC tournament _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern starting pitcher Daniel Franklin

Southern coach Roger Cador said he couldn’t find anything good in the Jaguars’ 23-3, mercy-rule loss to UNO on Tuesday night.

But he wasn’t concerned about any lingering effects, either.

“They’re not going to worry about that shellacking,” Cador said of the Jaguars. “They’ll move on to another adventure.”

The next adventure is the continuing quest to clinch a berth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament. Southern could accomplish that as soon as this weekend when it visits Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a three-game series that begins at 3 p.m. Friday.

The Jaguars (12-25, 6-11) are clinging to the fourth and final tournament berth from the Western Division. The Golden Lions (17-21, 13-5) are tied with Grambling for the West lead, but it’s Prairie View’s record that is most relevant to Southern’s cause.

The Panthers are 5-15 going into their final SWAC series at home against Grambling this weekend. The Jaguars, who visit Texas Southern next weekend, hold the tiebreaker, meaning their magic number is two. Any combination of SWAC wins by Southern and SWAC losses by Prairie View totaling two will send the Jaguars into the SWAC tournament next month, even though they’re ineligible for the NCAA tournament.

Cador had en eye toward to SWAC race as he watched UNO batter his pitchers for 25 hits before the game was stopped after seven innings.

He held back all his weekend pitchers, including Friday starter Daniel Franklin (3-3, 4.47).

“I hate to pitch pitchers that we’re counting on in meaningless games,” Cador said. “That was a good hitting team and I didn’t want to risk bruising (the weekend pitchers’) confidence.”

All the pitchers would be helped if the Jaguars can continue with the improved defense it has shown the last two games. They made just one error against UNO and the game before that — a 7-1 loss at South Alabama last Sunday — was their first errorless outing in 15 games.

“We played really good defense in Alabama,” said Cador, whose team won one of three games against 23rd-ranked USA. “That’s why we had a chance to win. It was very competitive ball. We played errorless ball and we forced them to earn everything.”

In the game before the error streak ended Southern committed just one error, its only game in the streak that didn’t feature multiple errors. During the previous 13 games, Southern averaged three errors per game. In the last three games, they’ve committed a total of two.

“Defense is one of the big issues right now,” infielder Robinson Mateo said. “If we play every game like (the last two), it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

In conference play, Southern is fifth in the SWAC in team ERA (5.56) but last in fielding percentage (.933). Nearly 30 percent of the runs the Jaguars have allowed in SWAC play (35 of 127) have been unearned.

“With this pitching staff we’ve got to catch the ball or they’re going to try and overthrow to try and get people not to hit it,” Cador said. “We need to have them pitch to contact and we make plays.”

Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.