Hill: Cowboys need to show more energy

Mitchell Rogers

Cowboys first baseman

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The McNeese State baseball team will look to carry over its steady and timely hitting from its midweek game against LSU-Alexandria into its Southland Conference weekend series against Abilene Christian at Joe Miller Ballpark.

The Cowboys (11-18, 7-5 SLC) and Wildcats (14-13, 2-10) will begin the three-game series at 6 p.m. today and continuing at 3 p.m. Saturday and concluding at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“I’m pleased with how we’ve been playing a little bit better lately,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “Not necessarily day in and day out, but we’ve been showing more glimpses of it. It was good to get a win (Wednesday).”

Hill gave his team an animated pep talk after its 9-4 victory against LSU-A on Wednesday, saying afterward that he wants to see his team play with more passion and energy.

“I asked them if there is really any other place they’d rather be,” Hill said. “We have to do a better job of enthusiasm and cheering on our teammates. Granted, everybody wants an opportunity to play, but the guys who are out there, those are the guys who earned the opportunity to be out there.”

He said he understands there are introverted players on the team, but that shouldn’t keep them from showing excitement when a teammate does something positive.

“You have to show an outward display of emotion sometimes and get excited when a guy turns a great double play or gets a big hit,” Hill said. “These kids get excited when they play the Fortnite (video game) and when they watch MMA. I want to see it. It’s not like I’m asking them to do something they can’t do.”

Grant Anderson (2-3, 3.68 ERA) will start tonight for the Cowboys and lefty Bryan King (2-1, 3.99) will take the mound in Saturday’s bout. Hill said he is keeping Sunday’s starting spot open, but ideally it will be Tyler Wesley (2-2, 4.66).

Carson Maxwell led off in both midweek games against Texas and the NAIA Generals, and he had success, batting 4-for-8 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

Maxwell said batting first has allowed him to let loose and play with a clear mind, which he said has helped lead to positive results.

“I’ve been kind of struggling at the bottom of the lineup,” Maxwell said. “Not because I was at the bottom of the lineup. I’ve just been struggling. Coach moved me up to leadoff against (Texas), and he told me before my first at-bat that he didn’t put me up there to work the count.”

Hill said he’s not afraid to put struggling batters in tough situations in an attempt to ignite a spark.

The strategy worked for Maxwell during the midweek, and he said the third baseman will lead off again tonight.

“Sometimes you have to put them in positions to succeed,” Hill said. “I’ve never been one to hide or protect guys. If you’re struggling, I’m probably going to hit you leadoff. Let’s get it over with.”

ACU will send right-handed pitcher Brock Barger (2-2, 5.50) to the mound tonight and throw right-hander Garrett Hutson (2-0, 5.64) on Saturday.

The Wildcats have a leaguebest .306 team average, led by Colton Eager with a .351 hitting clip and Caleb Kyle (.346). The Wildcats, who are tied with Lamar for last place in the SLC, ended a nine-game losing streak with a 16-0 win over Prairie View A&M on Wednesday. They are 1-7 in road games.

Shane Selman leads the Cowboys with a .299 batting average. McNeese has struggled at the plate, and it shows in the league statistics as the Cowboys rank No. 12 out of 13 teams with a batting average of .253.

 
 

Abilene Christian at McNeese 6 p.m.

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