McNeese's Will Fox and Collin Kober hold the regular season conference championship trophy prior to the game against Lamar during the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. 

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The wait is over. It has been nearly nine months (266 days to be exact, for those counting) since the defending Southland Conference regular-season champion McNeese State baseball team’s 2017 season unceremoniously ended with an early exit in the SLC Tournament. 

Now the Cowboys hope to recreate the success of last season and perhaps set the bar even higher, starting with a weekend series against Wichita State beginning at 6 p.m. today.

“The energy’s good, probably because we just got to see the sunshine for the first time in two weeks,” joked McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “I expect us to have a crisp practice (Thursday). They’re excited. We’re excited.

“You’re almost excited to get that first game under your belt just so you can start going back to work.”

The Cowboys won’t be taking it easy to start the season. They host a solid Wichita State team that features two Baseball America first-team All-Americans in junior third baseman Alec Bohm and junior outfielder Greyson Jenista. 

Bohm hit .305 last season with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. He also showed vast progress defensively improving his fielding percentage from .859 as a freshman to .959 in his sophomore campaign. 

Jenista split his time between first base and right field last season, hitting .320 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs. 

But going up against quality teams early is exactly what Hill said he wanted when he built the schedule. 

“It’s going to set the standard for us,” said McNeese junior catcher and infielder Dustin Duhon. “We get good teams to play like that to see where we need to be for Omaha, because that’s the ultimate goal. That’s everybody’s goal. Playing good teams and seeing good arms is only going to make us better.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Aidan Anderson will get the opening-night start on the mound for the Cowboys. Anderson worked his way into a starting role last season and finished with a 3-2 overall record, including 3-0 with a 3.98 ERA in the SLC. 

He is projected to go head to head with fellow junior right-handed pitcher Codi Heuer. Heuer made 23 appearances with three starts in 2017 and he went 2-2 with a 4.42 ERA.

Hill said opening night is special for everybody, but especially those who will have an opportunity to get on the field. He said he won’t release the starting lineup until today.

The Cowboys say they look forward to whatever role they need to take on to make the team better.

“It’s a culture thing,” said senior infielder Joe Provenzano. “It’s what coach Hill has instilled in the program. Back to my freshman year and every year just building off of it and continuing to instill that into the young guys. We’re always oriented in getting the job done and doing your job as an individual.”

Hill said junior outfielder Nate Fisbeck will be unavailable this season due to academic ineligibility. Fisbeck batted .243 as a regular starter, but missed much of the latter half of the 2017 season with an injury suffered against Southeastern Louisiana.

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