The skidding Southern baseball team has a golden opportunity to turn its season around with two weeks left when the Jaguars play host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a three-game series this weekend at Lee-Hines Field.
Southern (11-24, 9-9 Southwestern Athletic Conference) has lost seven consecutive games and scored seven runs combined in that span. But the Jaguars face the SWAC West division cellar-dwelling Lions (4-28, 4-12), who have lost six consecutive games and are bringing up the rear in several statistical categories.
The series starts with a 6 p.m. game Friday followed by a 2 p.m. game Saturday and the series finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Jaguars will try to get their offense revved up this weekend. Outfielder Tremaine Spears continues to lead the team with a .330 batting average, three homers and 21 RBIs. O’Neill Burgos is next with a .316 average, four homers and 21 RBIs. Catcher Taj Porter leads Southern with five homers and has knocked in 15 runs.
Southern coach Chris Crenshaw said he still isn’t sure when leadoff hitter Isaiah Adams will return from a hip injury. A.J. Walter could step in after performing well in practice this week. Joseph Battaglia and Jerome Bohannon will start two of the games with either John Guinze, Wilhelm Allen or Jacob Snyder set for the other.
“It’s been a rough patch, but we had two really good practices,” coach Chris Crenshaw said. “Hopefully these practices will lead into some good play this weekend. We ran into some decent arms last weekend but didn’t swing the bat like we wanted to. When we had runners in scoring position we didn’t come through.”
Southern moved from fourth in the West to third while being swept in a nonconference series at UL-Monroe last weekend when third-place Texas Southern was swept by first-place Grambling (11-4). Southern can mathematically catch the Tigers with this weekend’s games and a home series against Texas Southern to close the season. Prairie View (10-6) is one spot behind Grambling in the West standings.
Jackson State (18-0) is running away with the East Division title. The SWAC baseball tournament is set for May 19-23 at Toyota Stadium in Madison, Alabama.
“If we take care of business this weekend and have another good week of practice and take care of business the following weekend, we’ll put ourselves in a good spot,” Crenshaw said.
Southern swept the Lions in the first meeting a month ago, and the rest of the Lions season hasn’t gone much better. UAPB is second-to-last in team batting average (.222); last in team ERA (11.30) and runs allowed (388); second to last in home runs allowed (44); and second to last in errors 66.
Outfielder Kacy Higgins leads the Lions with a .306 batting average, followed by Nick Kreutzer at .286. Kreutzer leads the team in home runs (six) and RBI (23). The Lions top pitcher is Tony Horn Jr. (1-4, 7.00 ERA).