BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The huge success the Southern Jags saw in 2019 under Kerrick Jackson included a win over LSU and they are looking for big things again in 2020.
It's a new year, with a new team, and new expectations. After winning the SWAC West, the conference tournament championship, and making an appearance in the NCAA Regional, the Southern baseball team, which had been picked to finish dead last the previous two preseasons, was picked to win the West heading into 2020.
The Jags lost a ton of talent off last year’s championship-caliber team, with junior outfielder Hampton Hudson being the only everyday positional player returning. However, pitching ace Eli Finney is back to take the mound. Head coach Kerrick Jackson talked Tuesday, Feb. 11 about what he expects from his team in 2020.
"We brought some kids in that we're excited about; they're talented but we're just going to be young," said Jackson. "So, I think as we go through the season, it's going to be that learning curve and shrinking that learning curve as we go along and getting ourselves prepared for the postseason and make sure that all cylinders are clicking at the end of the year."
Because of the competitor he is, Jackson made it a point to schedule some tough non-conference games this season, including a short drive to Alex Box Stadium to take on LSU on February 18 for a rematch and a trip to Lubbock, Texas, where Southern will face Texas Tech for a two-game series on February 25 and 26. It's because of those moments, he believes his team will be ready once SWAC play begins.
"I want our kids to have that experience and understand those are the games that we have to be competitive in to give ourselves a chance to reach our ultimate goal, which is to get to Omaha," Jackson added.
There are two main things to watch for when it comes to this team this season. The first, of course, is how the young players step in to fill some of those holes. The second, which may perhaps be even more important, is how this team plays with a target on its back. The Jags are no longer a doormat and cannot be looked at as an easy win.
The main thing the players expressed during interviews was the way to keep that respectability and keep about their winning ways is to train as though they were still at the bottom.
“If you’re attacking, attacking, and trying to get better every day and you’re not really worried about what’s going on behind you, then if you’re worried about ‘us’ and playing ‘our’ game, I think we’ll be really really successful,” explained Hudson.
The Jags start their season at UNO on Friday, Feb. 14. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Maestri Field in New Orleans.
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