Cowboys need to look at themselves

It’s tough how to navigate how to feel about the McNeese State baseball team’s performance to this point. 

On one hand, 13-20 is not where the Cowboys or their fans anticipated they’d sit through 33 games. 

On the other hand, McNeese isn’t exactly in the worst situation. The Cowboys are in fifth place in the Southland Conference standings, just two games behind second-place Southeastern Louisiana. 

That means with some solid play they could conceivably set themselves up pretty nicely by the time the SLC Tournament comes around. 

But after spending any significant time speaking with McNeese head coach Justin Hill, it becomes pretty clear he’s not exactly excited about the way the Cowboys have played. 

And he has reason to be upset. Complete games from both sides of the ball seem to be few and far between. 

When the lineup is hitting the ball well, the pitching or defense seems to flounder. And when pitching is good, the Cowboys can’t seem to buy a timely hit. 

That was on full display Tuesday against Louisiana-Lafayette as the Cowboys had one of their best offensive games, tallying 10 runs on 15 hits. 

But the defense kicked the ball around with four errors and pitching was inconsistent in a 12-10 loss. The Ragin’ Cajuns had not won a game in which their opponent scored more than four runs. 

The Cowboys lost with 10 runs. 

Part of that is just baseball. Sometimes things go your way, other times they don’t. And what happened yesterday has nothing to do with what will happen today or tomorrow. 

But there are some glaring issues that Cowboys have struggled with all season that can’t just be chalked up to the “baseball’s weird” phenomenon. 

McNeese has struggled hitting the ball all season, especially early in innings. 

Much like any team, when the Cowboys can get leadoff hitters on base, they shine. 

We saw that Sunday in their 6-2 win against Abilene Christian. Twice the Cowboys got two men on with no outs, allowing them to play some small ball and get some runs across. 

This allowed McNeese to slowly build momentum and grind out a win without much of a scare from the Wildcats. 

In contrast, in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to ACU, the Cowboys had just one inning in which the leadoff man got on. It’s no coincidence McNeese scored two runs in that inning after Dustin Duhon got things started with a double and Andrew Bryan drew a walk to follow that up.

After that game, Hill said the Cowboys have a habit of making pitchers look good, and when they are hitting like that, he’s not wrong. 

Getting a man on base with two outs, which the Cowboys have become accustomed to doing, just isn’t going to cut it in a majority of scenarios. 

One thing Hill talks about on a regular basis is the importance of quality at-bats.

The Cowboys are beginning to trend upward in this category, but they clearly still have a lot of work to do. 

Hill will ultimately take the responsibility for the shortcomings of his players because that’s the kind of coach he is. 

But at a certain point the lineup is going to have to do something for him. There are only so many viable combinations of the lineup he can play with. 

The weekend rotation has exceeded a lot of expectations. Some early and consistent run support is going to have to start coming, or the Cowboys will end up watching the NCAA Tournament from their couches once again.

Tyler Nunez covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at tnunez@americanpress.com

      48e3da38-efce-11e7-9c4e-e30a09258e902018-01-02T15:04:00ZColleges Student SuicidesAP Photo/Don RyanIn this March 18, 2006 photo, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., sits at his Pendleton, Ore., home behind a photo collage of his son, Garrett, who took his life in 2003. His suicide led to the creation of a federal grant, which has awarded $76 million for prevention programs to more than 230 colleges since 2005, on top of millions that institutions have spent on their own. ””

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