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(Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Gazzolo: Winning McNeese still seeking respect

Last Modified: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 3:49 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

In case you have missed it, and plenty seem to have, McNeese State has a streaking baseball team.

Often overlooked and even more often under appreciated, the Cowboys keep rolling along in the shadows of a couple successful women’s teams.

It is easy to get lost in the excitement of a basketball tournament run or even a hot softball team that makes national waves with an upset or two.

And that seems to be where these Cowboys are stranded.

When the season began, McNeese baseball appeared lost. An opening weekend sweep by visiting Towson had some believing the Cowboys were done almost before they started.

Some even wondered if head coach Terry Burrows was sitting on one very hot seat.

Twenty-three games later, McNeese still seems to have something to prove.

This even after winning 11 of their last 14, 6 of 7 and four straight. Even after improving to 5-1 in Southland Conference play and 17-9 overall with a series sweep of Northwestern State.

It’s hard to say if the Cowboys are suffering from a lack of respect, a lack of attention, a lack of interest or all three. One thing is for sure, the players have noticed.

“It is good for us to play with a chip on our shoulder,” said pitcher Tyler Parke who got the win Saturday in relief. “I think there is no question we can make some noise. We have a chance to surprise some people.”

Surprise, perhaps. Maybe enlighten is a better term.

“We want to play well and show people just what we can do,” said outfielder Jason Williams.

The Cowboys learned from those early losses to Towson. They knew it was just the start of a long season even if others around them on the outside of the program thought it might already be too late.

“We found out some things in those games about ourselves,” said Williams. “We found out what we could do and what we really needed to work on to get better. And we have worked on those things.”

The Cowboys have not always been perfect, but they have found a way to make sure they are in a position to win at the end.

Their only conference loss was a 1-0 defeat at Lamar that went 18 innings.

“We have come 10-fold from those first few games,” said freshman catcher Cameron Toole. “This is a different team. We talked about things that we wanted to accomplish this year.”

And one thing this team wants to accomplish is make a name for itself.

“We have taken our lumps in the past here,” said head coach Terry Burrows, maybe the person who has taken the most of those lumps himself. “The only thing that we can do to change that is win. If you want to get respect you have to earn it.”

It just seems harder for this team to earn that respect than others.

Perhaps that’s because the Cowboys have struggled down the stretch in each of the last two season. Or maybe, expectations are just a lot higher around these parts when it comes to baseball.

All Burrows wants is for his players to be noticed for what they do no matter what your opinion is of him and the past.

“I want to get to the point where the community really gets behind the kids,” he said. “Our players have worked very hard and I want people to understand that.”

Hard to say whether or not people will ever fully understand that or not. But all the Cowboys know one thing — the only way for them to control any of that is to win and keep on winning.

If they do that, they may work their way out of the shadows and into the hearts of a few more fans.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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