In baseball, it’s often held that pitching and defense make the difference between an average team and a pennant contender.
But as the Southern University baseball team will attest, scoring runs is just as crucial as the play in the field.
The Jaguars have had their share of issues at the plate, scoring an average of 3.7 runs in their seven losses this season.
Despite the general lack of production, Southern still ranks second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a .265 team batting average, trailing only Alabama State (.302).
This weekend, the Jaguars (7-7, 3-3 Western Division) will try to avoid another slump when they face archrival Grambling (4-10, 2-3) on the road.
Much of Southern’s problem stems from an injury bug.
Sophomore outfielders D.J. Wallace and Tyler Kirksey have both been limited in the early going. That has added more difficulties to an already-jumbled Jaguar lineup Southern coach Roger Cador has juggled from Day 1.
“We’ve had so many injuries, so it’s difficult to have any kind of cohesiveness,” Cador said. “That really has hurt us to have those people out of the lineup. All in all, we still have been able to show some sparks.”
Some of those sparks have come from freshman outfielder Brian Ortiz, who has taken full advantage of his increased playing time by batting .278 with an RBI in six starts this year.
Ortiz has also yet to commit an error in his seven appearances, mainly in center field.
“(Ortiz) has done a really good job for us,” Cador said. “He’s played good defense, and he knows how to extend at-bats. He forces the pitcher to throw strikes, he fouls pitches off. He’s the only one who can do that in our lineup at this point.”
Ortiz’s emergence came at a time when former No. 3 hitter B.J. Rowry hit a slump, forcing him to the bench.
“B.J. Rowry has not hit, and that’s hurt us,” Cador said. “He’s healthy, but he has not hit. He’s struggled miserably. He’s just trying to do things he can’t do. He’s taking strikes and swinging at balls. He’s sort of a little backward right now. We can’t afford to put him in the lineup, because we’re not getting anything from him at this point.”
The Jaguars are aiming to get their bats back on track this weekend against Grambling in a three-game series that begins Saturday.
The teams play a doubleheader at noon Saturday, followed by a single game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Southern will send sophomore left-hander Jesse “Doc” Holiday to the mound for the series opener. Holiday (2-1, 3.70) suffered his first loss last Saturday against Texas Southern, but Cador is confident his ace will bounce back when his team needs him most.
“You always go with the gunslinger first,” Cador said referring to Holiday. “He did not have his good stuff on Saturday. That’s the first time since he’s been here that he’s not had good stuff. We hope that he’ll bounce back. We need him to bounce back.”