Title within grasp, Cowboys control their own destiny

Published 11:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2022

First, Parker Edwards shocked the Cowboys with a home run in the ninth inning of the Southland Conference opener.

Then he sent them home with a loss.

Edwards homered again in the 13th as Houston Baptist announced its presence in the conference race with authority.

Email newsletter signup

A lot has happened since that Friday night in March, but one thing is clear: the Huskies won’t surprise McNeese State this time. The Cowboys say they’ll be ready.

“They have our full focus and attention,” McNeese head coach Justin Hill said.

The Cowboys open the final series of the regular season at Houston Baptist at 2 p.m. today. It is one of three series this week that has title contenders battling.

The Cowboys (27-21, 12-9 SLC) are the only ones with their fate in their own hands. They are tied with Southeastern Louisiana a game up on four others but own the tiebreaker over the Lions.

Yet the league season started with two losses to Houston Baptist. In fact, the Cowboys needed a 10-run eighth to salvage the final game of the series.

“We are a completely different team now,” Hill said. “I’m sure they are a completely different team now as well.”

The Huskies (18-31, 11-10), who recently were swept at Southeastern, have a team earned run average of 7.44, by far the highest in the league.

McNeese will open there series with Grant Rogers (5-4, 3.99 ERA), who is coming off his worst start of the season. Rogers allowed three runs over seven innings in the first meeting with the Huskies.

Left-hander Austin Spinney (3-3, 6.62) will start for HBU. Chance Stone (3-2, 3.88) will go for McNeese against Jaren Burch (1-3, 4.76) in a battle of right-handers on Friday. Neither team has named a Saturday starter.

“We will see where we are at that point,” Hill said.

The Cowboys, who lead the league in hitting and pitching, are looking to stay relaxed and play aggressive to set the tempo from the series start.

“All that happens by trying to win on Thursday,” Hill said. “That is our focus.”

The Cowboys will get back Payton Harden, who missed the last two games of last weekend after running into the wall Friday night. Harden is one of three Cowboys hitting over .300. Harden is second at .355.

Brad Burckel leads McNeese at .360 with seven homers and 33 RBIs. Julian Gonzales leads McNeese with 36 RBIs while Kade Morris tops the power hitters with eight home runs.

The two other main series don’t start until Friday with Southeastern heading to Nicholls State and New Orleans traveling to Northwestern State.

The Cowboys will be spending at least part of the next few days watching the scoreboard.

“It’s an exciting time of year,” Hill said. “We have our chance and that’s all we can ask.”