Since the start of head coach Kerrick Jackson’s tenure as the lead of Southern University’s baseball program, the baseball team has seen steady improvement, including feats such as beating the crosstown rival LSU Tigers in the Spring of 2019 as well as bringing home the SWAC Championship in the same season. While the normal plight of an off-season would consist of building on the success of the past few seasons, Jackson admits that both he and his teams mind is continually on consistency within the process.
“It’s definitely more of just staying consistent and continually moving towards the trajectory that we’ve been on. Everyone in the country has the same circumstances, so we’re not going to let that be an excuse for us,” said Coach Jackson.
Like many other campus sports teams, Coach Jackson made mention of how the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 has impacted his team’s preparation. Jackson noted how the main struggle has lied in navigating online schedules, for players and creating suitable timetables in order for the team to maximize their practice time during a somewhat abbreviated preseason schedule.
“It hasn't been a traditional Fall, and that’s made it somewhat difficult to get out and assess players and how they fit into what we’re trying to do,” said Coach Jackson. Jackson continued on by noting how the negative side effects of the aforementioned abbreviated scheduling, has made the process more tedious for some of his freshmen and new transfers in getting as good a grasp on the team’s concepts as he would like. Jackson made a point to rule these factors out as an excuse for poor play once the season starts however, as the effect of the pandemic is something that the entirety of the SWAC will have to deal with this season.
Dealing with the scheduling of team activities along with online classes has made keeping everyone on the same page somewhat of a struggle during the course of this semester. When asked how he thinks that his players have responded to the current circumstances of the pandemic along with their responsibilities as student athletes, Jackson said: “I think that they are still adjusting, [and that’s led to] some frustration on their part. Freshmen are different [from returning players] in that they came in with a certain level of expectations and things haven’t necessarily lived up to those expectations yet.”
This speaks to the level of adjustments that not only first time students have had to face in starting off their collegiate careers during a pandemic, but first time student-athletes as well as they have been without the opportunity to fully enjoy the college experience outside of their responsibilities as students and athletes.
Coming off of the success that they have exhibited over the past two seasons in particular, questions have been posed by many around the Bluff how this year's team stacks up among the better teams in the SWAC. Noting the athletic ability available to this year's team, Coach Jackson noted that he expects his team to be competitive among the SWAC competition in the Spring.
“I think that we’re going to play some really good defense. On the pitching side of things, I like how we are headed, and I think that we have a lot of depth on the mound. [All in all] I think that we are going to be in a good position,” said Coach Jackson on what he regards as the teams biggest strengths coming into the season compared to some of the other teams in the conference. Jackson noted that talent wise, this year’s team has the potential to be the best squad that he’s had a chance to field during his tenure.
When asked if he had any message that he wanted to be given to the Jaguar faithful as they get closer to their season’s start, Coach Jackson said, “Come out and support...Hopefully by spring time, we’ll have some sort of vaccine, but in whatever capacity that we’re able, we definitely need the support.”