Southern ready for baseball practice _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern coach Roger Cador

Southern baseball coach Roger Cador has low expectations for his rebuilt team during the early days of preseason practice.

“The first week, we’re going to see if we can get on the field without getting lost,” Cador said only half-kiddingly as the Jaguars prepared for their first practice Friday. “Once we do that, we hope that they can remember the fundamentals we taught them in the fall.”

With 22 newcomers among 33 players, it’s understandable that there would be a steep leaning curve, at least initially.

But Cador thinks the group has a good balance between experience and youth. Four of the top newcomers have college experience, and the pitching staff features seven veterans among its 12 members.

Troy Lewis, a transfer from Delgado Community College, brings that experience as a shortstop and closer. Other newcomers with college experience are two more junior-college transfers — outfielder Dondrayas Harris from Gulf Coast Community College and left-hander Jarrod Jarreau from BRCC — and first baseman/catcher John Pope, a sophomore who sat out last season as a transfer from North Carolina A&T.

“We have some juco players we expect to be contributors, and that will buy some time for the freshmen,” Cador said. “It’ll be tough in the early going. We’ll have some growing pains. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Southern begins the season Feb. 19 with the start of the three-day MLB Urban Youth Invitational at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in New Orleans. The Jaguars will play Grambling, Louisiana Tech and Alcorn State on consecutive days.

After following that with its home opener against Jackson State on Feb. 23 at Lee-Hines Field, Southern plays its next 12 games on the road. The road-heavy preconference schedule is due, in part, to the poor drainage at Lee-Hines Field, which could limit the young team’s preparation for Southwestern Athletic Conference play.

“It’ll be a good experience for them,” Cador said of the early road trips. “When you go on the road, you build unity, trust in one another and you have bonding.”

Cador said this team has more local flavor than any of his teams “in a long time,” as it features 18 players from Louisiana.

Last season the Jaguars finished 20-23 overall and 13-8 in the SWAC Western Division, heating up with the weather as the regular season ended. But they lost to Texas Southern 10-0 in the SWAC tournament championship game.

As he begins his 32nd season, Cador said the program is entering a new era.

“I think it’s going to be one of my most interesting seasons in recent years,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to it. The key is to not expect too much too soon.”