BATON ROUGE, La. -- Southern University Softball team wait is finally over, and the 2019 season is here. The NCAA Softball opening day was Thursday, but the Jaguar waited one more day as they will host four teams for the Chef Celeste Bistro Softball Challenge. The four teams will include two teams from the Middle Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Howard University, North Carolina Central University and two from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Alabama State University, Prairie View A&M University.
Southern finished fourth in the western division recording an 8-9 record in SWAC play, 17-23 overall.
Softball head coach John Garris, led squad pulled a seventh-inning comeback upset over top-seeded Alcorn State in dramatic fashion but fell in back to back games to Alabama State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff to end their 2018 post-season run.
Southern will field a brand new squad as they lost three mainstays in four-year starter Sydney Andrews, Kiara Suttles, and Jamani Greer.
The Jags bring back starter and preseason All-SWAC selection Aubrion James. James played in all 40-games last season, appearing 20 times in the circle starting 18. James recorded 11 wins and 2 saves. Shauna Knighten and Tiara Scott are the only other Jaguars to see all 40 games last season. Scott recorded a .306 batting average, four home runs, and eight doubles, while Knighten recorded a .206 batting average, three doubles, and a triple. Jaslyn Perrodin and Celeste Williams round out the returnees. Perrodin recorded two hits, seven runs, and three stolen bases and Williams recorded three runs as a pinch runner.
The Jaguars added eight players to their 2019 roster, four JUCO, and four freshmen.
Freshman Paytin Mercado a speedster in the outfield, hails from Atwater, California represented Mexico on there junior national team last summer. The Jaguars added another outfielder/pitcher combo in Christy Kelly a right-hand pitcher out of Irvine, California.
JUCO transfer Kameri Mott and Adriana Rincon were teammates at JUCO, Galveston College last season. Mott recorded 21 runs, 18 RBIs, and four home runs while recording a .267 batting average. Rincon recorded 42 hits, 33 runs, 32 RBIs, four home runs while batting a .309 percentage. Mateighia Tanner stands a full 4'8 inches tall recorded a team-high .439 batting percentage, recording 29 runs, 30 RBIs, 15 stolen bases at Coffeyville Community College. Ashley May rounds up the JUCO transfer signees, coming in from Lamar State College-Port Arthur, sported a 2.78 era, striking out 176 batters. May appeared in 41 games for the Lamar State College-Port Arthur, started 31 in the circle, recording 20 wins at the plate May recorded seven home runs, sixteen doubles, 31 runs, 54 hits, and 48 RBIs. Jewel 'Hope' Kruebbe is a mid-year transfer from Carthridge, Texas.
Southern will play their first 13-games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Jaguars will play their first road game in Hattiesburg, Mississippi versus Conference USA foe Southern Miss in a midweek tilt.
Following, a weekend bye, SU will travel to Georgia to participate in the HBCU Division I tournament hosted by Grambling State. The Jags will then travel to face Jackson State University to end their road swing.
The Jaguars will open conference play hosting Mississippi Valley State, March 22-23, then host state-rival Grambling State March 29-30.
Southern's second road trip will consist seven games, beginning with a midweek tilt versus Nichols State, then travel on the road to face UAPB and Prairie View April 5-6 and April 12-13 respectively.
The Chef Celeste tournament will take place Feb. 9-10 at the Zachary Youth Park, in Zachary, Louisiana.
The inaugural tournament will feature two teams from the MEAC and the SWAC.
Southern will start the tournament versus North Carolina Central.
Southern fell to North Carolina 3-0 last season at the HBCU Classic in Atlanta, Georgia.
North Carolina had a prolific season last season recording the program first ever 20-win season, the Lady Eagle finished third in the MEAC Softball Championship to Florida A&M University.
NCCU lost MEAC-Pitcher of the Year Courtney Mirabella, who signed to play professionally in Italy, the North Carolina State transfer pitched a one-hit shutout versus Southern.
Head coach Vashion Johnson returns eight Eagles and signed eight newcomers. They will look at Sophomore Kiara Hurley to fill that pitching void.
More on NCCU Softball Click Here
Following, their matchup versus the Lady Eagles, the Jaguars will face Lady Bisons of Howard University. Southern swept Howard in a twin-bill to open the 2018 season in New Orleans.
Howard is expected to be a completely different team than last seasons 8-37 squad. The Bisons brought in first-year head coach Victoria Tyson. Tyson is known for her knack as a pitching coach and recruiter.
HU returns top hitters, Kamryn Tillman, and Trinity Gibbs, the two combined four 78 hits, 34 runs, 21 RBIs, and 23 doubles for the Lady Bisons last season.
Howard returns two arms, Mackenzi Steele, who appeared in 35 games last season posting a 5.15 era. Steele recorded one shutout, pitching 156 innings last season. Monica Thompson appeared in 13 games last season and started five.
More on Howard Softball Click Here
Saturday, Southern will face off with SWAC western division foe and reigning SWAC Tournament Champion Prairie View A&M. PVAMU made an improbable run in the SWAC Tournament to win their first championship in 20-years the hard way, after falling to Alabama A&M University in day one of the SWAC tournament, the Lady Panthers ran off six-wins in three days to take the title.
The Lady Panthers finished with a 20-23 record 11-6 in conference play and will return 18 players from the 2018 championship squad.
More on Prairie View A&M: Click Here
Southern will close the tournament facing Alabama State.
Alabama State finished 10-8 SWAC, 23-31 Overall.
The Lady Hornets, who seek their fifth straight appearance in the league tournament championship, garnered nine first-place votes.
The Lady Hornets return an experienced roster that includes five All-Conference selections, including Preseason Pitcher of the Year Justine Jean.
More on Bama State: Click Here
First pitch is scheduled for 9 AM at Zachary Park Field 7. Live Stats will be available on gojagsports.com, follow facebook for up-to-date tournament information.