The Southern baseball team is starting the second half of SWAC play this weekend the same way it finished the first half — on a roll.
The Jaguars (19-15) won back-to-back midweek games, including a startling 7-2 upset of No. 8 LSU on Tuesday, snapping an eight-game streak of midweek losses.
But this weekend’s journey to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (6-25, 2-12) puts Southern in the position of the hunted rather than the hunter.
“We always had confidence, but it gave us more that we could come out and win these midweek games,” senior center fielder Javeyan Williams said. “We know we have a bigger target on our backs (in conference play). Playing on the road is always tough, but if we play our game we’ll be all right. We have to stay focused.”
The series has been altered to avoid expected bad weather on Saturday. The teams will play a doubleheader Friday beginning at 11 a.m., with Game 3 set for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Jaguars coach Kerrick Jackson couldn’t have been happier after beating LSU for the first time since 2005 and snapping a 14-game losing streak in the series. But there was a bit of a hangover in beating UNO 5-4 in 10 innings Wednesday.
Southern committed three errors, two of which helped the Privateers erase a 4-0 deficit. The Jaguars reset themselves with good pitching in the latter innings and won the game on Hampton Hudson’s walk-off single.
“We lost focus and hit a lull,” Jackson said. “We’ve been talking about starting the second half of our conference season for two weeks now. We want them to get prepared and understand we rolled through the first half pretty good.
“The target is on our backs is a little bit bigger, and the teams out there are going to give us their best shot to prove we’re not who we say we are. The challenge is on our guys to step up and be ready to get it done each time we go out there.”
Jackson went through eight pitchers against UNO and four against LSU but said his staff is in good shape, even with a doubleheader Friday. He’d like to see his weekend starters come through like Eli Finney and Austin Haensel did during the week. Finney held LSU to one run and one hit in seven innings, and Haensel threw four shutout innings against UNO.
Jackson said Jerome Bohannon and Justin Freeman will start Friday with John Guienze set to go Sunday.
“We really didn’t tax anybody too much,” Jackson said. “Haensel is one of our long relief guys. He won’t go until Sunday if we need him. We used quick outings (Tuesday). We do need quality starts from our starters.”
If Southern had a weakness in the first half of league play, it was on the mound. But Williams is confident the Jaguars' pitching is coming on.
“It’s a puzzle; we’re putting the pieces together,” Williams said. “I trust in our pitching no matter what. They’ve had a rocky start. But every now and then when we aren’t hitting, they carry us. They’re getting better because we always work hard.”