Just when the Southern baseball team was on a roll in Southwestern Athletic Conference play, the Jaguars have to take a break.
But they aren’t taking it easy.
Southern goes on the road for a three-game series at Memphis beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. The teams are scheduled to play at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, though weather might necessitate a doubleheader either day.
The Jaguars finished the first half of SWAC play with the league’s best record at 10-2 in the West Division. Southern (16-13 overall) dropped a 4-2 non-conference decision at Nicholls State on Tuesday.
Southern coach Kerrick Jackson said he’d like to see the SWAC tweak the schedule and play 10 consecutive weeks, but there is something to be gained with an out-of-conference foe.
“I’m not a fan (of the break in the schedule) and I’m hoping we can change conference schedule so we can play 10 weekends like everybody else,” Jackson said. “It’s better for the conference and scheduling purposes. There is the challenge of playing a quality team. The American (Athletic) Conference is a beast when you look at the teams in that league. We could potentially end up at one of these places in postseason.”
Memphis isn’t exactly a powerhouse nationally, but the Tigers (14-13) did take two of three from league rival Houston last weekend and defeated Arkansas State 7-4 Wednesday.
The Tigers are led by second baseman and leadoff hitter Ben Brooks, who is batting .350. Designated hitter Hunter Goodman is hitting .345 with a team-high 28 RBIs.
“This weekend will be big for us to go out and compete to the best of our abilities,” Southern senior shortstop Malik Blaise said. “We can compete with anyone, but this weekend will show a lot about who we are as a team against a top 100 team.”
Blaise had four hits in Southern’s series-clinching victory last Sunday against Prairie View to raise his batting average to .345. The Jaguars are led by Hunter David and Javeyan Williams, who are 1-2 in batting average among SWAC players at .449 and .404, respectively. Third baseman Tyler LaPorte is batting .383 with a league-high 39 RBIs.
“We’ve been pretty good offensively,” Jackson said. “Our hitters have bailed the pitchers out last two weeks. We need to get better with our starting pitching, more consistent. If they go out and do their job and give us five innings, the way we’ve been playing and the way the bullpen has been performing, we’re going to be in a good spot.
“We continue to be on the uptick on defense. We’re starting to understand better and think the game better.”
The Jaguars also got some starters back in action Tuesday. Left fielder Johnny Johnson missed the series last weekend because of suspension and second baseman Zavier Moore was out with an injury. Moore or Willie Ward will start at second this weekend.
Southern’s starting pitching rotation will likely have Jerome Bohannon (3-3) Friday, John Guienze (0-0) Saturday and Justin Freeman (1-1) Sunday.
After the Memphis series, Southern plays host to LSU and UNO on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, before the second round of SWAC series starts at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“Memphis is a good measuring stick for us,” Jackson said. “The goal is to get to Omaha. That’s who you are going to be playing.”
Ticket info for LSU
Tickets for the LSU-Southern baseball game April 9 at Lee-Hines Field are on sale at the Southern ticket office in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Tickets are $10. Call the ticket office at 225-771-3171 for more details. The gates to Lee-Hines Field will open at 5 p.m.