The Southern baseball team makes the turn this weekend into the second half of the season with a visit to Grambling in a key portion of the schedule.
A good showing will position the Jaguars well since the home stretch is literally that, three consecutive home series to close the Southwestern Athletic Conference season with a non-conference series at UL-Monroe mixed in.
The teams open the Grambling series Friday at 6 p.m. with a 3 p.m. start Saturday and 1 p.m. for Sunday’s finale.
Southern (10-15, 8-4 SWAC) is tied with Grambling (9-14, 6-3) based on winning percentage in the West Division standings. The Tigers had its series with Prairie View postponed. Southern swept Grambling at home, but the Tigers rebounded to sweep Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff to get back into the race.
“They put together a couple of winning streaks, they’ve been playing well the last couple of weekends,” Southern coach Chris Crenshaw said. “They beat UL-Monroe 15-3 in a midweek game last week, so we’ve got to be ready.
“At home you’ve got to win two or sweep. On the road you want to win at least one; you don’t want to leave without one. We have three home series in the back half of the season. That will be big for us. We play well at home.”
Crenshaw said his starting rotation for the weekend will likely be Wilhelm Allen (3-2, 7.39), Jerome Bohannon (1-1, 7.71) and Joseph Battaglia (2-1, 4.78). Grambling will likely counter with Kerry Boykins (3-1, 3.86) and Jason Alvarez (1-2, 6.04) with the third spot up for grabs.
Southern is coming off a 15-1 midweek loss at Mississippi State, a game that was 3-0 into the sixth inning.
“When you don’t make the routine plays, drop fly balls, you give them momentum,” Crenshaw said. “Those guys hit mistakes and we can’t overcome one mistake.”
Outfielder Tremaine Spears leads the Jaguars with a .329 batting average and has two homers with a team-best 18 RBI. O’Neill Burgos and Judah Wilbur are both batting .314. Zavier Moore is hitting .279 and leadoff hitter Isaiah Adams .277 with seven steals in seven attempts. Catcher Taj Porter leads Southern with four home runs.
Grambling is led offensively by outfielder Jahmoi Percival, who is batting .353 with two homers and 20 RBIs. Shortstop Cameron Bufford is hitting .281 with six homers and 22 RBIs, both team bests.
“We swung it decent last weekend, a couple of guys left some pitches up in the late innings and balls find gaps,” Crenshaw said. “We’ll be ready to go. It’s Grambling, a big rivalry weekend. The guys will be amped up.”