By Felix Cunningham
Folks say in Louisiana, New Orleans is the place to be, especially during tournament season.
The Southern University baseball team, led by the legendary head coach Roger Cador, saw the Crescent City at its finest when they battled at the top spot for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.
The Jaguars’ last appearance in the SWAC tournament was in 2009 against Prairie View A&M when Southern last clasped a trophy of their own.
Everyone in attendance that weekend saw Southern University at its best and it proved that luck has nothing to do with absolute skill.
This is why they call the SWAC the unpredictable conference. No one ever knows who is going to come out on top and winners often arise from the lower tiers.
However, Southern fell to Texas Southern 10-0 at the tournament on May 17 at Wesley Barrow Stadium. It was sight to behold to see the team back in the championship fold. Following suit with the rest of the athletic programs, Southern entered the championship scramble with positivity.
Southern started the season with five losses before they picked up a 9-5 win against Prairie View A&M. At this point, it was way too early to tell the fate of Southern in the western division.
Fate was met when Southern played to 10 innings against its cross-town rivals, Louisiana State University on March 17 at Lee-Hines Field. LSU advanced all the way to the NCAA College World Series, but the Tigers didn’t expect to have a tricky opponent like Southern University earlier this season.
Southern stood 3-11 overall before they faced LSU in a battle for their baseball lives. However, Cador placed trust in his players
“Don’t let records fool you,” Cador said. “My players will go out there and play to the fullest extent with any team, in-conference or not.”
Southern and LSU were tied 2-2 before heading into the tenth inning. Freshman pitcher Tyler Robinson did not miss a beat as he only allowed two runs and stripped the onslaught of a number one team in the Southeastern Conference.
Ultimately, Southern fell against LSU 4-2 at Lee-Hines Field but took pride in facing a number one team and taking them to further inning.
LSU baseball head coach Paul Mainieri saw the efforts of Southern and complemented Robinson, saying, “I don’t think [Robinson] missed a beat and he pitched his heart out.”
The battle against LSU guided Southern in the right direction to prepare for the conference opponents ahead of them. With those goals ahead of them, Cador had a strategy on what he needed to do with the team for the remainder of the season.
“We have to excel in pitching and make sure we stop the other batters from coming onto the bases. This will encourage the other players to craft the offensive drive and score the necessary runs that we need,” said Cador.
Southern first battled Jackson State on May 13 and toppled the past champion’s regime as Southern exploded at bat with a 10-5 win.
The next day, the Jags faced Alabama State in a nail biting 10th inning victory, sliding by with a 13-12 win, to keep the Eastern Division champs at bay.
On May 15, Jackson State revived themselves at bat when Southern lost once again 6-5, but such a close game sent jitters for both teams in championship play as Southern fell in the finals but not in spirit.
“These are a great group of guys but we have to work because championships don’t come from slacking or luck but it comes from hard work and I know the students I’m working with have a hard work ethic and will only to make me more proud than I already am of them,” said Cador.