Cowboys end Nicholls’ hopes of repeat title

Published 5:53 pm Saturday, May 18, 2024

Playing the role of spoilers, the Cowboys also did themselves some good.

On the final game of the regular season, McNeese State ended the reign of Nicholls as Southland Conference champs.

In doing so, the Cowboys also clinched the No. 5 seed in the SLC Tournament which starts Wednesday in Hammond. McNeese will open against No. 4 Northwestern State, which beat the Pokes in a series in Lake Charles 2-1.  

Email newsletter signup

With a chance to win their second straight regular-season crown, the Colonels ran into the hot-hitting Cowboys and the right arm of Cameron LeJeune. The combination was too much for the Colonels, who fell 10-6 Saturday in Thibodaux. The win guaranteed McNeese a winning record for the season.

It is the 10th time in the 11 seasons under head coach Justin Hill that the Cowboys will have a winning mark. McNeese (29-25, 11-13) will enter next week’s tourney with some momentum after avoiding the sweep to Nicholls.

The Colonels (34-20, 16-8) will try to become just the sixth team in tournament history to repeat as SLC champs when they play as the second seed in Hammond. They won the tourney title last year in Lake Charles. 

LeJeune threw five innings of relief, entering the game in the fourth. LeJeune struck out six while allowing five hits to pick up the victory.

The right-hander improved to 7-2 on the year after replacing starter Caleb Strmiska, who worked the first three innings. As for the offense, there were a lot of Cowboys who contributed.

Seven of the nine McNeese starters picked up hits as the Cowboys collected 15 in all. They scored three times with two outs in the second to set the tone. Simon Larranaga’s two-run double was the big blow in the frame.

Another two-out hit, this time by Elliot Hebert in the fifth, produced another two runs and gave McNeese a 9-3 lead, which proved more than enough.

Peyton LeJeune hit his third home run of the season and first since he hit two against Prairie View on March 2 at Joe Miller Ballpark in the ninth to end the Cowboy offense.

Easton McDowell went 3-for-3 and drove in two runs to lead the McNeese attack. He also walked and scored three times.

Conner Westenburg also had three hits and drove in two.

Jaden Collura hit a solo home run to lead off the ninth for the Colonels. They scored three times and loaded the bases before J.T. Moeller got the final out to earn the save.

McNeese will now get ready for the double-elimination tournament, hoping to pick up their 30th win of the season and make some noise as an underdog. The Cowboys are set to play the tournament’s first game with the time still being set.