Midway through Sunday afternoon’s rubber match with Stillman College, Southern coach Roger Cador called an impromptu meeting with his team.
The Jaguars had managed just two hits through the first four innings off Tigers starter Tyler Vails, and Cador thought he had a solution.
“He was throwing very soft,” Cador said. “So we asked them to spread a little more, get a little wider and use their hands more in terms of swinging, rather than that normal approach.”
The tweak paid off. The following inning, Southern batted around, rattling off five hits for five runs in the fifth frame, leading the Jaguars to a 6-1 win at Pete-Goldsby Field.
The five-run fifth inning began with back-to-back base hits from freshman catcher Jose De La Torre and junior outfielder Sean Washington.
Two batters later, junior third baseman Caleb Hatcher hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score De La Torre and even the score at 1-1. Southern (2-1) then had five consecutive base runners, scoring four more runs in the inning.
The rally was aided by a crucial fielding error from Stillman center fielder Chris Brown, who misplayed a routine fly ball that would have limited the damage to just two runs.
“For five innings, this pitcher did a really good job of keeping us off-balance, but after that we made the adjustment,” Cador said. “After they had gone a couple of at-bats and didn’t have any success, we planted that seed, and it grew right away.
“They listened to the suggestion about making the adjustment and enjoyed a measure of success.”
The five runs proved to be plenty of insurance for Jaguars starter Daniel Garcia. Garcia pitching seven innings, surrendering one run on two hits while striking out five.
“I felt good out there today,” Garcia said. “I took my time. I didn’t rush myself. And I felt great.”
The senior right-hander faced four batters or fewer in six of his seven innings and recorded 97 pitches, 63 of which went for strikes.
“I threw a lot of fastballs and sliders,” Garcia said. “I just took some off my fastball today because they’re a disciplined team. They don’t swing at many pitches. I knew some guys were aggressive from the earlier games, so I’d throw a slider to start them off. Once I got the slider over, I knew I was good to go.”
Garcia was at 77 pitches through six innings, and Cador was set to make a move to the bullpen to close the game. But Garcia, a Harvey, Ill., native, had his mother in town for his 2013 debut and argued Cador’s call.
“I really wanted to take him out an inning earlier, but he wouldn’t let me,” Cador said. “He’s got his mom in town, and that’s another big measure. I know he wanted to go that extra inning for her.”
Garcia did just that, ending his day on a high note before being replaced by senior reliever Josh Powell, who pitched two shutout innings to preserve the win.
Southern tacked on a run in the eighth inning, beginning with a leadoff triple from Washington. Senior shortstop Jeremy Lopez drove him in three pitches later on a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Southern has two days off before its midweek game against Nicholls State in Thibodaux. The Jaguars then will travel to Houston for a three-game round robin next weekend with Texas Southern, Alabama State and Prairie View.