Every time Southern pitcher Daniel Franklin stepped to the mound against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday, he took a deep breath and looked to the section of stands closest to the Jaguars dugout.
To most people, the spot was empty. To Franklin, his father was right where he had been for every game since his son was in Little League.
Terry Franklin died Monday of complications that stemmed from high cholesterol, and for the first time since Daniel can remember, his father wasn’t at one of his son’s games.
It’s a shame, too, because Daniel Franklin thinks his dad really would have liked what he saw.
Franklin allowed two earned runs on four hits and struck out five in eight innings as Southern defeated the Golden Lions 5-3 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
“He would’ve said, ‘Good job, baby boy. Good job,’ ” Daniel said, his eyes still red after coaches gave him the game ball. “He would’ve called me by my nickname, ‘D-Frank.’ ”
Southern coach Roger Cador gave Daniel the option of sitting out his regularly scheduled start this weekend, but the sophomore refused to miss so much as a single practice this week.
Daniel, who also lost his mother last year to breast cancer, said his father wouldn’t have wanted him to miss anything because of him.
“It was actually a relief (to pitch) because I know that’s what they would’ve wanted me to do,” Daniel said. “I know they’re always with me through any situation. Anytime I was in trouble, I would just take a deep breath and say, ‘Come on, Dad. help me out,’ and that would be it. ... He was with me.”
The Jaguars supported their teammate at the plate with five runs on eight hits in the first game.
Seven of Southern’s nine starters recorded a hit, including designated hitter Ashanti Wheatley, who hit a leadoff double and triple in the third and fifth innings. He scored on sacrifice flies both times.
Southern couldn’t seal its first conference series win, though, losing to UAPB 7-2 in Saturday’s second game.
Similar to Friday’s outing, a 10-9 defeat, the Southern defense collapsed in the late innings after going ahead early on.
In Saturday’s second game, the Golden Lions scored six runs after the fifth inning on to erase the Jaguars’ 2-0 lead.
UAPB scored 16 total runs in inning Nos. 6-9 during the weekend series.
Southern starting pitcher Josh Sparks allowed 10 hits, but Cador said he pitched well to allow only two runs and strike out five during his 5.1 innings.
Bryan Melendez took the loss, allowing five runs on four hits.
“If we don’t make plays, our bullpen is not going to be able to stop them,” Cador said. “We’re leaving a lot of runners on and letting a lot of runners on, so it’s a double whammy.
“They don’t realize the damage that’s done when they don’t make plays. They think everything is OK.”
Southern travels to Hammond on Tuesday to play Southeastern.
The Jaguars then host Texas Southern for a three-game series next weekend.