After losing its past six games, the Southern baseball team is in the midst of its worst stretch of the season.
But the Jaguars aren’t discouraged, because they believe they can remedy their recent shortcomings.
“I don’t think we’re playing bad baseball,” infielder Troy Lewis said. “We’ve just got to do certain little things to help us win — with runners in scoring position, having the big hit or the sac fly, whatever we need to do to score.
“We’ve got to make good decisions defensively, and the key component is third strikes. When we throw strikes and play good defense, we have a chance to win because we put up hits.”
Southern (8-17, 3-8 Southwestern Athletic Conference) is tied with Prairie View for last in the Western Division going into its weekend series against Grambling, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday at Lee-Hines Field. The Tigers (10-16, 8-4) are tied with Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the West lead.
During the losing streak, the Jaguars have averaged more than seven hits per game, and walks and hit batsmen have provided an additional 23 base runners.
But they have averaged fewer than three runs.
Especially frustrating for Southern have been several instances in which it has had a runner on third base with fewer than two outs and failed to score him.
“We’ve got to score the men that are in scoring position,” infielder Robinson Mateo said. “When a guy is on third, we’ve got to bring him in. Right now that’s the thing we’ve got to improve.”
More timely hitting won’t solve all of the Jaguars’ problems because walks, hit batsmen and errors have given opponents added opportunities, and they’ve taken advantage.
Opposing teams have outscored Southern 60-17 during the losing streak.
Jaguars pitchers have walked 24 batters and hit 19 others over the past six games. Southern has committed multiple errors in each of the games and a total of 19, leading to 14 unearned runs.
“If we throw strikes and play good defense,” said Lewis, who doubles as the closer, “I think our offense the majority of the time will get the job done.”
Southern hopes to get a boost from the return of senior catcher Jose de la Torre, the No. 3 hitter. He missed four straight games while tending to a family matter in Puerto Rico before returning for an 11-1 loss at LSU on Tuesday.
“The pitchers know that he’s got the experience and he’s been through things before,” coach Roger Cador said. “He can help them back there. He can throw runners out. It’s going to help a lot because he does a lot of good things.
Junior left-hander J’Markus George (3-3, 3.59) is scheduled to start the opener for the Jaguars against Tigers junior right-hander Issac O’Bear (4-2, 5.08).
This is the second series for Southern and Grambling at Lee-Hines Field. The March 4-6 series scheduled to be played at Grambling was moved to Southern because renovations to the Tigers’ park weren’t complete.
Grambling was the home team and batted last in the previous series. The Jaguars are the designated home team this weekend.
Southern won the series opener 10-3 and Grambling won the next two games 9-5 and 10-9. The teams also played in the season opener in the MLB Urban Invitational on Feb. 19 at Wesley Barrow Stadium. The Tigers won 15-0 in a game shortened to seven innings by the mercy rule.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.