Southern, hosting Grambling, needs strong SWAC finish

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern batter Tyler Kirksey follows through on a hit against during last year's series against Grambling at Lee-Hines Field. The Tigers and Jaguars will wear Negro League replica uniforms again this weekend. Show caption
Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Southern batter Tyler Kirksey follows through on a hit against during last year's series against Grambling at Lee-Hines Field. The Tigers and Jaguars will wear Negro League replica uniforms again this weekend.

Needing a sweep, Jaguars host Grambling in their final home weekend series

The Southern baseball team can still qualify for the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.

But the Jaguars have virtually no margin for error in climbing out of the West Division cellar to grab the last tournament berth from the division.

The glad-is-half-full aspect of this situation is Southern (7-22, 3-13) faces the team immediately ahead of it — Grambling — this weekend at Lee-Hines Field.

“The only way we can go is up at this point,” outfielder D.J. Wallace said. “That’s the way I’m looking at it — and what better series than Grambling, because they’re our rival.

“It’s huge. They’re going to come in wanting to beat us again, and we have to sweep them. That’s the main goal this weekend.”

The Tigers (12-26, 9-12) swept the Jaguars at Grambling last month and can wrap up a berth in the tournament by doing the same this weekend.

The most games Southern can win is 11. To do that, the Jaguars would have to sweep Grambling, then do the same at Prairie View next weekend, then sweep a makeup doubleheader at Texas Southern on May 8.

“If we run the table, we can still make things happen,” Jaguars coach Roger Cador said. “Is this team the kind of team that can run the table? I don’t know. They don’t deal with adversity well.

“You’re going to have to stand up to all kinds of stuff (to run the table), and that’s going to be very difficult. The makeup of this team, in my opinion, doesn’t fit well for that kind of stuff. But they haven’t given up.”

Cador said he hasn’t given up, either, though he said he is also “playing for next year.”

“We’re not giving up, but we’re trying to be more realistic,” he said.

Cador has inserted freshman Phillip Williams into the starting lineup at shortstop. When the Jaguars fell behind Nicholls State 13-0 after five innings Wednesday, Cador removed first baseman B.J. Rowry and third baseman Harley Wiltz so he could look at a couple players, inserting Elliot Jones at first and freshman shortstop Sergio Torres at third.

“I haven’t been pleased with anybody we’ve played at third,” Cador said. “I thought maybe Sergio can give us a little more defensively. He may not give us much offensively, but right now I’m looking for defense.”

Mathematically, Southern could still catch Prairie View (8-9) as well as Grambling.

“That’s the beauty of baseball,” Rowry said. “No matter how low you go, you can always bounce back. Just the fact that we still have a chance should give us motivation.

“Even though we’ve only won three conference games, we’re still in contention to get into the tournament and have a chance to compete in the tournament.”

But, Rowry added, the Jaguars have to focus on taking one step at a time and not look at how many steps would have to be taken to extend their season.

“I think at this point we really need to just simplify everything, just be relaxed,” Wallace said. “It’s kind of like being in that position where you’ve got nothing to lose because we’re already in such a bad position.”

This weekend’s series is the “Throwback Classic,” part of the Negro League Tradition series. Both teams will wear repilca uniforms from the Negro Leagues.