Cowboys visit wounded Tigers, both mired in mediocre seasons

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, April 9, 2024

For the 10th time as the baseball coach of McNeese State, Justin Hill will play the program he once pitched for proudly.

Only this time will be a little different.

When the Cowboys go to Alex Box Stadium for tonight’s annual game against LSU, Hill’s team won’t be facing the usually roaring Tigers. Instead, they will see a wounded animal looking to get healthy.

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The defending national champs are struggling as they get ready for the first pitch at 6:30 p.m.

“They are still a very talented team,” Hill said. “They are trying to find some things out, but we can echo that. We are trying to figure things out too.”

McNeese (16-14) lost two of three after over the weekend to Southland Conference leader Lamar. All three games were close — 4-2, 1-0, innings; and 4-3 — with Cowboys pitching holding down the Cardinals.

Once in the 30 innings did Lamar score more than one run, that coming when the Cardinals rallied in the bottom of the ninth Sunday to win the series.

“We pitched really well over there,” Hill said. “If we can continue to play like that, we should be in good shape.”

While he admitted the LSU game is always special, and Hill has three wins against the Tigers, he said it is still about getting ready for the weekend conference games.

“If we beat them it is a big deal and it can help turn things around for us, but we have to manage the game right just like they do,” Hill said. “But I love playing over there and playing big programs, as do our kids.”

LSU (21-12) comes into the game unranked having lost five of its last six and 3-9 in the Southeastern Conference.

Still, they are an elite program, Hill said

“It is a different environment there,” he said. “I still want to beat them.”

It will be the seventh game McNeese has played against an SEC West opponent, having been swept by both Arkansas and Texas A&M, two top-10 teams.

“We have been in these types of environments before so we are used to it,” Hill said. “Our kids love to get their chance against these teams.”

McNeese hosted LSU at the end of fall workouts in November, playing the Tigers in front of a sellout crowd at Joe Miller Ballpark.

While LSU’s problems have started with pitching, Hill said McNeese’s major concern is scoring runs. The Cowboys will try to get timely hits, which they have not consistently done.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have suffered from giving up runs, allowing 27 over the weekend against Vanderbilt.

“We can’t put anybody away with two strikes, and we can’t get off the field with two outs,” said LSU head coach Jay Johnson after Saturday’s 8-6 loss. “And I mean, there’s a lot more that leads to that. But I’ll just simplify it to that right now.”