Within 48 hours of the McNeese State baseball team landing in Lake Charles after bowing out of the Nashville Regional in the NCAA Tournament on June 1, all of the Cowboys were packed up on and going home for summer break.
It is one reason why McNeese head coach Justin Hill goes into a bit of a funk, a temporary depression when the season concludes. He said the depression subsides after the conclusion of the College World Series.
Coaches in fall and winter sports get to see their players for awhile after their seasons. Not so for Hill, who went from plenty of activity to a lot of quiet quickly. The last time Hill saw his players was when the plane from Nashville landed in Lake Charles.
"You don't really think about it until it's gone, until it's all over," Hill said. "After you meet with your team and meet with the seniors and meet with the guys who are returning, then you go through the draft. So there are just a lot of highs and lows and a lot of emotions. It's kind of a weird thing you go through. Obviously, the sun comes up and life keeps going. I still miss them."
With more than a week gone since McNeese went two-and-out in the regional, ending with a 9-8 13-inning loss to Ohio State, Hill has had time to reflect on what wound up being a 35-26 season.
Four players were selected in the Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft last week. On Monday, Sulphur-graduate Will Dion was named a second-team freshman all-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
"I think my favorite part about Will Dion being a freshman all-American was all the older guys coming to his defense when the first freshman All-American team came out," Hill said. "I think our guys just blasted the other organizations on social media.
"You know you got something special when you don't have to defend yourself. If you want to know the blueprint of how to come in and how to make an impact, whether it's on the field or not, he came in, he worked his tail off. His success led to team success."
Looking forward to the 2020 season, McNeese's top four hitters return — first baseman Jake Dickerson (.313), second baseman Nate Fisbeck (.304), right fielder Clayton Rasbeary (.304) and left fielder Payton Harden (.294).
On the mound, Dion (5-0, 1.98 ERA, 6 saves) returns along with Rhett Deaton (8-4, 3.95), Brad Kincaid (3-1, 4.06), Jonathan Ellison (2-3, 2.78) and Brody Strahan (0-0, 3.86).
The biggest holes to fill of the 11 departing seniors will be with the losses of Shane Selman in center field, Carson Maxwell at third base, and the pitching of Aidan Anderson, Cayne Ueckert, and Bryan King.
One of McNeese's signees, catcher Jared Alvarez-Lopez of Cypress, Texas, was picked by the San Diego Padres in the 17th round. He has not indicated if he will attend McNeese or sign a professional contract.
One factor that might work in the Cowboys' favor is San Diego drafted a catcher — George Mason's Josh Driscoll — with a competitive balance pick between the second and third rounds. Driscoll has signed with the Padres.
Players have until July 15 to go pro or return to school.