Southern, Grambling prepare for pivotal SWAC baseball series

Two days before welcoming rival Grambling to town for a three-game series at Lee-Hines Field, Southern baseball coach Roger Cador sat in his office and talked about everything this weekend has to offer.

His eyes were the size of hanging curveballs.

“What ... MORE ... can you ask for?” Cador said.

The question was aimed at a team that has struggled to find its way, and for a fan base Cador hopes will provide the kind of support this weekend to give the Jaguars a lift.

A doubleheader starting at noon Saturday begins a series that has Southern and Grambling, two of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s proudest programs, battling to stay in contention for a berth in the SWAC tournament. A single game at 1 p.m. Sunday completes the series.

Southern (14-16, 9-9) sits fourth in the SWAC Western Division — only one game ahead of last-place Grambling (14-22, 8-10). But either team, given the division’s elbow-to-elbow, top-to-bottom balance, could catch co-leaders Texas Southern (16-16, 8-7) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (14-22, 8-7) for first place by Sunday night.

The top four teams from the West make the SWAC tournament, while the fifth-place team stays home.

“We’ve never been in this situation in 29 years (with Cador as coach) where we are actually playing for survival,” Cador said. “We’re treading water that has never been swum. This series is huge. This is as huge as it gets.”

If the stakes don’t excite you, perhaps the uniforms will.

The visit by Grambling brings the Negro League throwbacks out of the closet for the 12th straight GSU-Southern series at Lee-Hines. The teams will once again wear the retro uniforms for all three games as a way of paying tribute to old clubs like the Kansas City Monarchs, the New York Cubans and the Homestead Grays.

Still not stoked?

Check out the forecast for what could very well be the nicest weekend of the spring. Temperatures in the low 70s and clear, sunny skies are in the offing.

“I could not order a better weekend,” Cador said. “We have a beautiful, perfect God.”

Cador hopes all the happenings will boost a Southern team that is only 3-4 at home this year after going 16-9 at Lee-Hines last year.

The Jaguars entered the season with hopes of winning their 15th league title of the Cador era, but a lack of offensive punch and a slew of injuries have held them back.

The good news is that Southern, which finishes Western Division play at home against Prairie View next weekend, should be healthy again by the time teams head to Fort Worth, Texas, for next month’s SWAC tournament.

The bad news? Southern, without a strong finish, may not be invited.

“We don’t want the legacy of this team to be that we didn’t make the tournament,” senior pitcher Jesse “Doc” Holiday said.

Southern won the first two games of a three-game set at Grambling earlier this season, but could not hold a late lead in the Sunday game. Brandon Kiser’s three-run homer put the Tigers over the top.

Cador said he will go with the usual rotation of Holiday and Jose De Leon on Saturday and, once again, Danny Garcia for Sunday’s finale.

He had considered handing the ball to freshman Camilo Godoy on Sunday and sending Garcia to the bullpen, but worried Godoy’s tendency to start slow could put even more pressure on the struggling Southern offense.

“It’s one of the biggest weekends we’ve played in recent years where we have to win,” Cador said. “If we don’t win, we may not make the tournament. It’s that tight in the West.”