Improved pitching has helped Southern University on its five-game winning streak.
This weekend, the Jaguars will get an idea of how far their pitching has come in their final home Southwest Athletic Conference series against Texas Southern.
Because of bad weather, the series has been moved to Wesley Barrow Stadium in New Orleans and will start at 7 p.m. Friday. The times for the second and third games will be determined later. They could be played as a doubleheader Sunday at Barrow.
Southern (22-15, 12-2 Western Division) and Texas Southern (11-26, 7-8) swapped 1-0 victories last month in Houston, and Southern won the third game.
During the Jaguars' winning streak, they have allowed only 13 runs and lowered their team ERA to 5.61, second only to Jackson State (4.69) in the SWAC.
“Our pitching has steadily gotten better,” Southern coach Kerrick Jackson said. “The pitchers are throwing strikes, and that’s our plan. We know (Texas Southern) is going to pitch well. Our guys have to be disciplined, have a good approach at the plate and stick to it. We have to battle to push runs across.”
The Jaguars are the league’s top hitting team with a .312 mark but were the victim of a 1-0 shutout by TSU’s Aron Solis, who allowed only three hits and struck out 11 batters. Southern was nearly shut out a second time but got a run-scoring single by Malik Blaise in the ninth inning to win the second game. Mason Furlong had shut out the Jaguars through eight innings in that game.
Southern continues to lead the SWAC with a .312 batting average and has three hitters in the top 10. Hunter David leads the league with a .417 mark, while third baseman third baseman Tyler LaPorte is second at .388 and center fielder Javeyan Williams seventh at .376.
LaPorte leads Southern and is third in the conference with 46 RBIs.
Southern will go with Jerome Bohannon (3-3, 5.75), Justin Freeman (2-1, 7.15) and John Guinze (0-1, 7.58) as starters. Freeman threw seven shutout innings against Texas Southern the first time out and allowed only two runs in seven innings against Prairie View last time out. Guinze pitched two scoreless innings allowing one hit with the strikeouts against Alcorn State on Tuesday.
“Our hitting has been there but our pitchers are coming on a lot better than last year from what I’ve heard,” said catcher Hunter David, who has had an inside look watching the staff develop. “But this is just the beginning. We haven’t reached our level of full potential with everybody clicking at once but we are getting closer every game.”
The Tigers are expected to go with Solis (3-3, 6.70), Furlong (1-5, 6.71) and Noe Guerrrero (2-6, 9.19).
Texas Southern has struggled in other areas. On offense, the Tigers are batting .257 overall but lead the league with 28 home runs. Keanu Van Kuren is the top hitter with a .303 average and Olajide Oloruntimilehin leads the Tigers with nine homers and 32 RBIs.