The Southern baseball team appears to be on the road back to its place as a Southwestern Athletic Conference powerhouse.
Kerrick Jackson doesn’t want to see a detour this weekend.
The Jaguars (14-11, 8-1 Western Division) have the league’s best overall and conference record after three weeks when it takes on Prairie View (8-18, 4-5) in a three-game series starting at 6 p.m. Friday at Lee-Hines Field.
The teams come back Saturday for a 3 p.m. game before wrapping it up at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Jackson is worried about a "trap" series with his team on a five-game conference winning streak atop the Western Division ahead of Grambling (7-5). He’s warning his players it’s a short fall back into the doldrums of last season’s 9-33 finish.
“We weren’t ever in this position last year, but this could be one of those trap weekends,” Jackson said. “Prairie View has a decent record and is competitive but are toward the bottom. They got beat 34-2 last Friday (by Texas Southern). Our guys saw that, and we could say, ‘We got this; we had a sweep last weekend and we’re holding a good lead in conference.’
"I’m trying to keep them mindful that it’s great to be at the top, but you have a target on your back. Teams are going to come out and play their best to beat us.”
The Jaguars have slugged their way to the top, leading the league with a .299 team batting average (.352 in SWAC play). Catcher Hunter David and center fielder Javeyan Williams are 1-2 in batting with .453 and .403 averages, respectively. Tyler LaPorte’s .364 puts him in the top 10 at No. 9, and he’s second in the league in RBIs with 35.
Collectively, Southern has a league-high 70 extra-base hits, including 17 homers, and has flashed speed with SWAC-best 73 stolen bases, 20 more than the next team.
“It’s a confidence thing,” David said. “Once you get into a rhythm, everybody follows it. Hitting is contagious. One man gets the job done and another wants to get it done too.
“It’s a great feeling to be winning. We want to win them all. We just got to take it one pitch at a time.”
The Jaguars lost their last two nonconference games to UNO 9-6 and Northwestern State 6-3, but they battled to the end of both games, totaling 17 hits.
“We have some solid approaches," Jackson said. “I’m trying to get them to tone it down with two strikes and take advantage of our speed. We want to put the ball in play and make them throw us out, put pressure on the defense to make plays. I like that we’ve shown a multi-faceted offense. We can bunt, hit and run or hit for power.”
It hasn’t all been hitting. Southern is the top fielding team (.958) and his No. 4 in pitching against a tough non-conference schedule. Jerome Bohannon (1-1, 3.38), Justin Freeman (0-1, 7.88) and Jacob Snyder (2-1, 2.42) are the primary starters scheduled this weekend, and reliever Connor Whalen (seven saves) has yet to allow an earned run in 11 innings.
“We’re more focused as a team, in the weight room on the field,” Freeman said. “It’s a more concentrated effort. Winning is always more fun. We have more confidence in our staff and bullpen. Our hitters are hitting the ball well. We’re finishing games.”