(Rick Hickman/American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 11:21 AM
There will be 13 newcomers to the McNeese State baseball program next season. None of them hail from the Lake Area.
But moving forward, it appears coach Justin Hill and the Cowboys are making inroads to local talent. Kinder’s Zach Rider, the 2014 Louisiana Class 2A player of the year, has verbally committed to join McNeese’s 2015 recruiting class.
Rider feels that other Southwest Louisiana players are likely to follow now that he’s on board.
“I know a bunch of guys that have been offered from places like Barbe and Moss Bluff, and I think there’s a good chance they’ll go to McNeese,” Rider said. “We can get a lot of decent players going there.”
Rider was pursued by multiple programs that have seen more success than McNeese in recent years — his top three other options were Louisiana-Lafayette, Southeastern Louisiana and LSU, all of whom played in NCAA regionals this spring.
But Rider likes the McNeese campus and the trajectory he sees the team taking under Hill and assistant coach Cory Barton.
“It’s so close to home. My parents can come and watch. It means a lot,” Rider said. “They were a lot better this year, and I started taking notice.”
As his accolades indicate, Rider was a major player in leading the Yellow Jackets to this year’s state championship.
As a pitcher he went 8-0 with a 0.87 ERA, including the win over Catholic-New Iberia in the state title game.
Mostly serving as Kinder’s leadoff man, Rider hit .465 with 15 doubles and 28 RBIs in his junior season. His lone home run tied the state quarterfinal game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
“Nothing rattles him when the game is on the line in pressure situations,” said Kinder coach Kenney Courville. “He wants to win. That’s what it’s all about.”
Rider said the Cowboys are primarily interested in him as a pitcher, but there is a chance he could play the outfield.
“I like to hit, and I like to pitch,” Rider said. “They’re about the same to me.”
Kinder is in the midst of a successful run both in terms of team success and in seeing its players move on to the collegiate level. Former Yellow Jacket Blake Trahan has starred at ULL for the last two years, and Rider is one of four incoming seniors being pursued by Division I programs.
“We have some great kids. We’ve very fortunate,” Courville said. “It’s a great time to be at Kinder. They love their baseball here.”
Verbal commitments are non-binding until a student-athlete signs his National Letter of Intent. The early signing day for baseball is in November.
McNeese cannot comment on athletes until they have signed.