Cowboys in SLC semis, advance to bracket championship

Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2022

There will be a time when Justin Hill can sit back and think about his accomplishment. Now is not that time.

On a night when the McNeese State baseball coach broke the all-time program win record at 264, his mind was on the next big game.

The Cowboys stamped their ticket to the championship round of the Lake Charles Bracket in the Southland Conference Tournament with a 8-4 victory over Nicholls State Friday night at Joe Miller Ballpark.

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It was the Cowboys’ 10th consecutive SLC Tournament victory dating to 2019.

Top-seeded McNeese (32-21) will play tonight for the title against the winner of today’s first game between Nicholls and Incarnate Word. A win tonight or Sunday will have the Cowboys advance to the best-of-three championship series at home.

Today’s first game is set for 1 p.m. with the nightcap at 6 p.m.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Hill said of the record. “The best part about this is we are talking about Tony Robichaux’s record. I’m proud of that.”

Julian Gonzales led the way by going 4-for-4, including his ninth home run of the season, a solo shot in in the top of the ninth.

“We want to win this,” Gonzales said. “To be able to do it in front of our fans, after all we have been through, that is special. It would be a cool thing.”

Cameron Foster went the final five innings, allowing one run to earn his 12th save and tie a season record. Burrell Jones got the win in relief to improve to 4-0.

“I’m grateful Cameron Foster threw really well,” Hill said. “It was big for us to go to 2-0 in the tournament. We decided that was the best way and we went with it.”

Foster struck out 10 over the final five innings.

McNeese also got home runs from Kade Hunter, his second of the tourney and fourth in four games, and Andruw Gonzales, his first of the year.

Brad Burckel had three hits and drove home two. His big hit was a two-run single in the top of the sixth to give the Cowboys a 7-3 lead.

Julian Gonzales came home for the first time on Andruw Gonzales’ blast to left that gave McNeese a 3-2 lead in the second.

After the Colonels scored to tie the score in the bottom of the second, Hunter’s monster moon shot cleared the scoreboard in left and gave the Cowboys a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.

“We are staying focused to a man,” Julian Gonzales said. “We know this isn’t over. We still got one more.”