The start of the Southern baseball team’s season has been bumpy, to say the least. The Jaguars are 2-9 and near the bottom of most Southwestern Athletic Conference statistical categories.
Southern coach Roger Cador thinks he’s found the answer.
Cador called his decision to move freshman Tyler Robinson and senior James Fontenot into the starting rotation with senior Santos Saldivar one of his best ideas in years and one that could potentially change the fate of the floundering Jaguars.
He’ll get his first shot to prove that Sunday, when the Jaguars play a noon doubleheader at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (5-7) in their first Southwestern Athletic Conference road series of the season.
The teams were supposed to play a three-game series, but unfavorable weather forced the coaches to settle for the Sunday doubleheader instead.
“I struggled with the way we were, but I really feel good with what we have now,” Cador said. “These kids are going to throw strikes, and they’re going to compete.”
Cador was adamant that freshman pitcher Justin Freeman, one of the starters for the early portion of the season, has not lost his starting job.
Instead, Cador said the move is about wanting to throw the pitcher who looks best right now, leaving the door open for Freeman to move back into the starting rotation.
As for sophomore J’Markus George, Cador said his performance over the past two outings was not up to par, citing a lack of strikes as one of the primary issues. George allowed five earned runs on as many hits through two innings in a loss to South Dakota State last weekend. He is 0-3.
Saldivar said he wasn’t surprised by the new rotation, adding he was confident anyone on the pitching staff could get the job done, but thought Fontenot’s promotion was well deserved after he allowed only three runs in 7.2 innings on Sunday for the team’s second win of the season.
As a team, the Jaguars have allowed fewer hits (83) than any other team in the SWAC and are second in opposing batting average with .257, but they’re also tied with Mississippi Valley State for the fewest number of games played thus far.
“It’s exciting. It’s always good to have something different,” Saldivar said. “(In terms of pitching), we walked too many guys. We can’t have that.
Cador said he’s looking for Saldivar and Robinson, who will receive the two starts this weekend, to go at least six or seven innings.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff ranks near the bottom of most SWAC offensive statistics, including a third-worst .243 batting average and a fourth-worst 68 total runs scored.
Southern is one of the few teams in the conference with a comparable offense, ranking last in runs (43) and hits (82). But Cador remains optimistic about his lineup’s future.
“I began to see a little life in the lineup (against South Dakota State),” Cador said. “You can see them feeling better about themselves because they finally accomplished something they had really been fighting hard to do.”