Southland names Harden baseball athlete of the year

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, June 23, 2022

Payton Harden’s postseason is becoming almost as rewarding as that of his year on the field.

On Wednesday, the McNeese State center fielder was named the Southland Conference Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year.

That will go along with his conference Player of the Year honor. He was one of four Cowboys to be selected to the all-academic first team.

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Joining him on the squad are shortstop Reid Bourque, relief pitcher Cameron Foster and left fielder Julian Gonzales, a two-time selection. Pitcher Chance Stone was named to the second team.

Harden, who led the conference in hitting with a .378 average, hits (85) and stolen bases (26), posted a 3.82 grade point average in mass communications/public relations.

Harden, who is two hits shy of setting the all-time school mark of 254, could do that next year, if he returns for a final season.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Harden said recently. “I’ll wait and see what happens.”

He is likely waiting to on the July 17-19 baseball amateur draft before making any decisions.

“I think Payton has a chance, but you never know,” said McNeese head baseball coach Justin Hill. “We want what is best for all of them, but if it doesn’t work out we will welcome him back with open arms if he wants to come.”

Foster is likely going to get drafted while both Bourque and Gonzales have used up their eligibility.

“You don’t get recognized for this if you don’t do it all,” Hill said. “You got to be good in the classrooms and on the field. It says a lot about all the guys and their futures.”

Gonzales, Bourque and Foster all posted 4.0 GPAs. Foster, who was named the Southland’s Relief Pitcher of the Year, earned his marks in behavioral sciences.

Foster led the Southland in six categories including saves (12), ERA (1.86), strikeouts (84), batting average against (.164), hits allowed (35) and runs allowed (17). He ranked second in the conference in walks allowed (20) and was named a third team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Gonzales, who is heading to medical school, recorded his 4.0 in biology/pre-med. He started in all 57 games for the Cowboys and hit .280 with nine home runs with 44 runs batted in, ranking him tied as the team leader on the season.

Gonzales is also a College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American.

Bourque, who studied health and human performance/sports wellness management. After a slow start Bourque hit .276 with four homers and 25 RBIs last season. He also had 24 stolen bases.

Bourque finished his career as the all-time Cowboys leader in stolen bases and games played.

Stone earned a spot on the second team after recording a 3.66 GPA in health and human performance/pre-physical therapy. Coming off Tommy John surgery the year before, Stone ranked third on the team with 501/3 innings pitched and posted a 3-3 record with a 5.01 ERA. He started a team-high 15 games and made 17 overall appearances.