One win away from the SLC title
McNeese bombs SLU, one win away from earning NCAA bid
Special to the American Press
Play great, sleep late.
It’s the motto of McNeese State baseball coach Justin Hill this week, one he learned from his playing days.
What it means is simple, when it comes to tournaments the better you play the later your game and thus the longer you can sleep in.
This week in Hammond the Cowboys are throwing a slumber party.
McNeese pole-axed host Southeastern Louisiana 18-2 late Friday to roll into Saturday night’s Southland Conference title game. The game was shorted to seven innings by the mercy rule.
It may have ended late but it was over early — McNeese scored four runs in each of the first three innings for a 12-0 lead and coasted in.
It was the Pokes’ second 10-run rule victory in three days, having opened the tournament with a 12-0 victory over No. 2 seed New Orleans Wednesday.
“I’m at a loss for words,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “We are hitting on all cylinders. The balls just keep finding grass.
“It was all soldiers go. We were rolling today. Playing hard and getting after it. Can’t get much better than that.”
The 18 runs is the most scored by a McNeese team in Southland tournament play, breaking the old mark of 14 set against Texas-Arlington in the 2003 title game.
“That was impressive,” said senior Jake Dickerson, who had four hits and drove in a career-high four runs. “You don’t expect to do that. We just came out and attacked their pitcher.”
The seventh-seeded Cowboys (31-28) will play the winner of Sam Houston and top-seeded Abilene Christian. The two play an elimination game at 1 p.m. The title game is set for 6 p.m.
“We are not just doing this for us, we are doing it for the City,” said Dickerson, noting all Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana has been through over the last year. “We want to bring the championship back where it belongs.”
The SLC champ also earns a berth in the NCAA tournament and will find out where they go Monday. McNeese, winners of nine of its last 11, is also trying to defend the championship they won in 2019. There was no postseason last year. Last night’s win was the Cowboys seventh straight in SLC tourney play.
“We don’t have to be the best team, we just have to be the best team on the field that day,” said Hill. “That’s how you win a championship.”
Southeastern, which entered the tourney as the No. 3 seed, saw its season come to a close at 32-24.
McNeese beat the Lions 3-2 Thursday.
McNeese wasted little time jumping on SELA starter Daniel Dugas, scoring four times in the first and second innings, batting around the order in both frames. Dugas (0-1) had worked only 12.1 innings on the year heading into Friday and lasted just over an inning.
The Cowboys finished with 21 hits, also a team tourney record, as Brett Whelton joined Dickerson with four hits and four runs batted in. Reid Bourque had three hits. All nine starters collected at least one hit and either scored a run or drive in one.
The Pokes added six in the fifth while pounding on seven Southeastern pitchers.
“We got off to a bad start,” said SELA head coach Matt Riser. “Baseball is a funny game.”
The Cowboys surely enjoyed the laughter, which made things easy for starter Ty Abraham, who went four innings to get the victory. The right-hander allowed just one run, the only homer of the game ironically, as Eli Johnson starting the third by taking Abraham deep. He improved his record to 4-3.
“Ty Abraham gave us four quality innings,” said Hill. “That’s what we needed.”
Getting all the runs and hits didn’t hurt either. Over their three tourney games McNeese has outscored its opponents 33-4.
The Cowboys’ reward beside a spot in the title game?
A late wake-up call in the morning.