Challenge lies ahead in Big Easy

Cowboys without injured Bryan

<p>During the Cowboy’s and Cajun’s non-conference game at Joe Miller Ballpark in Lake Charles, La., Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)</p>Rick HickmanRickHickmanPhotographer
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<p class="p1">The McNeese State baseball team will look to bounce back from its midweek loss to Louisiana-Lafayette and continue to trend upward in Southland Conference play when it travels to take on New Orleans for a weekend series beginning at 6:30 p.m. today at Privateer Park.

<p class="p3">McNeese (13-20, 9-6 Southland Conference) sits alone in the No. 5 spot in the standings and a successful weekend could keep it comfortably on pace to be a part of the eight-team tournament.

<p class="p3">“Goal No. 1 is to win Friday night,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “They’ve been playing well as of late, so it will be a challenge for us. But our guys will be ready for it.”

<p class="p3">In a bit of a change of pace, the Cowboys swung the bats well against the Ragin’ Cajuns, but pitching and defense weren’t quite there.

<p class="p3">The pitching staff gave up 10 earned runs and the defense committed four errors in the 12-10 loss.

<p class="p3">“It was really good to see us swing the bat,” Hill said. “I thought that part was really good. We were just an inning short to be able to get to Aidan (Anderson).  … We needed some guys to pitch better than they did. That’s going to happen.”

<p class="p3">The Cowboys will be without catcher and regular designated hitter Andrew Bryan for the time being after he injured his left hamstring rounding first base on a stand-up double against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

<p class="p3">Hill said he and the coaching staff have not yet decided who they will go with to replace the .356 hitter in the lineup.

<p class="p3">“That’s a big blow for us,” Hill said. “He’s been swinging the bat well for us, but we’ll just need the next guy to step up. That’s why these guys have been working. You just never know when your opportunity is going to come up.”

<p class="p3">Hill said he will go with what has become McNeese’s normal rotation over the past few weeks. Grant Anderson (3-3, 3.22 ERA) will start tonight, lefty Bryan King (2-2, 4.04) will get the start Saturday and Tyler Wesley (3-2, 4.29) will tentatively be the Sunday starter, unless he’s needed for significant time early in the series.

<p class="p3">Owen Magee leads the Privateers (17-17, 7-8) with a .348 batting average, four home runs and 20 RBIs. Cody Ducote (.250) has a team-high five home runs and 28 RBIs.

<p class="p3">UNO will likely pitch Bryan Warzek (2-1, 2.79 ERA) tonight a week after he suffered his first loss of the season against Lamar.

<p class="p3">“They have a really good Friday night guy,” Hill said. “Warzek is as good as you’re gong to see. He’s going to be tough. He’s leading the conference in strikeouts (78 in 481⁄3 innings), so it’s going to be important for us to have good at-bats.”

<p class="p3">Carson Maxwell continues to excel in the leadoff spot for the Cowboys. Since taking the role against Texas on April 2, Maxwell has accumulated a .333 average with two doubles, a triple and six RBIs in six games.

<p class="p3">“(The Privateers) have a lot of similarities to us,” Hill said. “They’ve played a challenging schedule and they’re right there in the thick of it just like we are. They’re going to be a challenge. They’ve played some good teams early.”

<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>McNeese at UNO </strong></span><strong>6 p.m.</strong>

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