The Southern baseball team achieved its first goal by clinching the Southwest Athletic Conference West Division title Saturday, but the Jaguars have some unfinished business this week.
Jaguars coach Kerrick Jackson wishes he had more.
Southern plays at UNO at 6 p.m. Tuesday and has a nonconference game at SWAC member Alcorn State before a one-week break leading up to the SWAC baseball tournament May 15-18 at Wesley Barrow Stadium in New Orleans.
Jackson said he’d like to see the regular-season format changed so Southern more easily could play the allowed 56 games. He’d rather be playing this weekend leading into the tournament, which is the only way into the NCAA tournament.
“It’s tough for us to get 56 with the way our conference is unless we play a bunch of midweek games, and we don’t have the pitching for that,” Jackson said. “The more games you play the better you are. We’ll give them off a day off or so, but baseball is a sport of repetition and timing. You can’t get too far away from it.
“Everything is for naught if we don’t win the conference tournament. It’s great that we had a big year and have the No. 1 seed. People maybe are predicting us to win the tournament, but if we don’t pull that out, we will not have accomplished one of our biggest goals.”
The SWAC tournament winner is the only bid the conference gets. The midweek games at this point are a welcome way to stay sharp. Jackson said left-hander Jerome Bohannon will start against UNO and right-hander Justin Freeman against Alcorn State.
Jackson was much happier with his team’s play in winning the first two games at Prairie View, 12-8 and 6-4. The first game clinched the division title but not without some anxious moments. Southern jumped to a 9-3 lead after three innings and was up 11-4 in the eighth when the home team made a push.
Ashanti Wheatley, Malik Blaise, Bobby Johnson, Johnny Johnson and Willie Ward each drove in two runs and Eli Finney allowed four runs in seven innings in his debut as the opening game starter.
Southern's pitching, which struggled at Grambling the week before, got a second straight solid outing from John Guienze to win Game 2. Guienze allowed one run in six innings.
“We just wanted to play the best we could in preparation for the tournament,” Jackson said. “I’d like for us to finish a little better than we did. The first game we had a big lead and didn’t finish it. I’m working on them about that. You have to put teams away and finish games.”
SWAC tweaks conference tournament
SWAC officials had to do some last-minute juggling with the tournament field after declaring East Division members Alabama A&M and Mississippi Valley State ineligible for the 2019 tournament.
Southern, as the No. 1 seed from the West, will play Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Arkansas Pine Bluff, which finished fifth in the West, has been moved into the East Division fourth seed spot. Southern won all five meetings with the Golden Lions this season.
Alabama State finished first in the East, followed by Jackson State, Alabama A&M, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley. Alcorn will move up to the No. 3 seed position.
David still rehabbing
Catcher-first baseman Hunter David continues to rehab from a hamstring injury and missed all three games in Prairie View, making it six games since he last played. David was the SWAC’s leading hitter for much of the season and is batting .388.
“He’s getting a little bit better, but we’re still trying to figure it out and get him some therapy,” Jackson said. “We don’t want it to flare up on him again once he gets going.”