McNeese opens at UTSA

Change-up in schedule presents challenges

When the McNeese State baseball team opens its season tonight, it will be in unfamiliar territory.

For the first time since 2012, the Cowboys will start the regular season on the road as they travel to play Texas-San Antonio in a three-game series beginning at 6 p.m. today at Roadrunner Field.

Head coach Justin Hill admits that it will be a bit strange opening the season on the road, but it’s nothing that should be bad.

“That’ll present some challenges,” Hill said of opening on the road. “Probably more so from the coaching standpoint. You get used to the comforts of home. You get a chance to get in a rhythm of do you have all your charts, your clipboards and all the different things. We’ll go through our checklist, make sure everything’s ready to go.

“I know the guys are excited. I think we’ve probably hit the point (in) this stage of the preseason where it’s kind of hard to get better until you start playing somebody else.”

Hill said he believes that it will be easier for his team to open on the road because there is so much experience on the team, which returns 12 seniors and also has another 14 juniors. They know about the little things that happen on road trips, such as checking into the hotel and team meals, so they can help out the freshmen who have never dealt with it before.

The Cowboys were picked in the preseason Southland Conference poll to finish fifth after going 25-33 last season (the first time McNeese finished below .500 since 2013). No McNeese player earned first-team all-SLC preseason honors, but outfielder Shane Selman and pitcher Aidan Anderson — both seniors — earned second-team honors.

The Cowboys face a UTSA team that finished the 2018 season with a 32-24 record. The Roadrunners were picked in the preseason Conference USA poll to finish seventh. They placed one player — senior infielder Bryan Arias — on the preseason team.

“We do have some familiarity with UTSA,” Hill said. “This will be our fourth time in six years to have played them. I don’t think they’re going to present us with anything that’s really outside of the norm. They kind of line up and play ball with you.”

Junior lefty Rhett Deaton, who missed all of the 2018 season due to a shoulder injury, will be McNeese’s opening-night starting pitcher. Hill said on Monday that he did not know who the other two starting pitchers for the Saturday and Sunday games would be. UTSA announced seniors Karan Patel (RHP) and Bradley Griggs (LHP) will start on Friday and Saturday, respectively. No Sunday starter was announced.

UTSA swept the Cowboys in three games last year in Lake Charles and has won the last five meetings.””

FILE: Cowboy’s starting pitcher Aidan Anderson during their game at Cowboy Diamond in Lake Charles, La., Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman