Struggling Southern baseball team visits top-ranked Cajuns

The Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team is ranked No. 1 in the country by Collegiate Baseball.

Southern is 4-12 overall and has fallen into last place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division after being swept at Grambling last weekend.

So those teams find themselves in very different places as they meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field in Lafayette.

“I want the kids to be competitive and eliminate the amount of mistakes that we made over the weekend,” Jaguars coach Roger Cador said before practice Tuesday. “There have been growing pains with this team.”

Southern is struggling with a young team that starts just one senior and lacks leadership, Cador said.

“We’re going to stay the course,” Cador said, “so that what is difficult to digest now becomes soft food that goes down a lot smoother later. There’s a lot of on-the-job training.”

The Jaguars committed 12 errors in their three games at Grambling, but those weren’t the only mistakes.

“We could have overcome the physical mistakes,” Cador said, “but we couldn’t overcome the mental. Mental mistakes really did us in.”

Southern took a 5-0 lead in the second inning of the first game and led 7-4 before giving up three runs in the eighth and eventually losing 8-7 in 11 innings.

“Coach talks about us growing not only as a team, but as individual payers,” outfielder D.J. Wallace said. “We have to already be thinking about what we’re going to do before the ball is hit, before a play has to be made. That’s a key part of the mental game.”

The score of the second game was 3-3 when the Jaguars loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Southern failed to score — partly because Bud Morton was picked off second base.

“Those things should never happen, but they happen,” Cador said. “Confidence has to be built.”

Cador said Southern has struggled at the plate when runners reach base, and they’ve been reaching base well enough. The Jaguars stranded 24 runners against Grambling.

“We’re not hitting well enough with men on base,” Cador said. “You can see the body language change in the batter’s box. When the bases are empty, the batters are loose. When runners get on, you can see the tightness, and it permeates. They need to relax, step out of the box and take a deep breath.”

Cador said he will start freshman right-hander Conner Baumgardner (1-1, 5.87 ERA). He’ll also use two more freshmen right-handers in redshirt Harold Myles, who has been reinstated after missing a start against McNeese last Tuesday for violating a team rule, and Jacob Polk, who’s from New Iberia.

In all, Cador plans to use five or six pitchers to get ready for a weekend series at home against Prairie View.

Wallace said he’s “looking forward to seeing what a top 10 team looks like in action.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns were 22-2 going into Tuesday night’s game against Northwestern State.

“They’ll inflict some pain if we’re not playing well,” Cador said.