McNeese State head baseball coach Terry Burrows. (Pankaj Khadka / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 7:25 PM
McNeese State is back in the Southland Conference tournament after a one-year hiatus.
The Cowboys even drew a favorable first-round matchup with the No. 4 Texas-Arlington Mavs, a team they swept in the regular season.
That’s the good news.
If McNeese is to win its first tournament title since 2003, it will be without the services of pitcher Michael Clemens, who has been shut down for the season after a recurrence of shoulder soreness that first flared up against Lamar on April 29.
Even without Clemens, coach Terry Burrows thinks the Cowboys have more pitching depth than in 2010, when they ran out of arms and went 2-2 in the double-elimination tournament.
“If we put ourselves in the position we were in a couple years ago, we’re a lot better off,” Burrows said. “We just completely ran out (of pitching). Right now, still without Michael, I have five or six guys that have started and other capable arms out of the bullpen.”
Blake Ware, McNeese’s all-conference pitching selection, will get the start in today’s 9 a.m. game against the Mavericks. Ware allowed 2 runs in 8 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win over UTA on May 11.
The morning start will be an equal disadvantage to both teams, though Burrows has tried to prepare the Cowboys for it the past two days.
“I joked with their coach that as the home team, they have to get up 40 minutes earlier. They hit at 7:15,” Burrows said. “We practiced (Monday) at 8 o’clock, left (Tuesday) at 8 o’clock getting into that routine. Hopefully it’s not too much of a shock to their system.”
If McNeese wins, it will face the winner between No. 1 Sam Houston State and No. 8 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 4 p.m. Thursday. A loss gets the Cowboys another 9 a.m. game.
More importantly, winning puts McNeese on a shorter road to the championship.
“You don’t want to be in the loser’s bracket. Once you get in there, you have to play more games,” Burrows said. “It’s definitely an advantage to win the game tomorrow. They’re all must-wins at this point, it seems like.”