Showdown: Bats vs. Arms

Cowboys face SLC’s top pitching staff

<p class="p1">Ridge Heisler, Demons lefty (4-2, 2.77 ERA) will start tonight</p>

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<p class="p1">The McNeese State baseball team will try to ride the wave of one of its most successful weeks of the season when it hosts Northwestern State at Joe Miller Ballpark for a Southland Conference series beginning at 6 p.m. today.

<p class="p3">The Cowboys have seen a surge in success in a four-game winning streak, especially at the plate over the last week, scoring 32 runs and beating their opponents with their bats. McNeese has hit at a .324 clip during the winning streak.

<p class="p3">“We’ve started to become our own team,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “The 2018 version of McNeese. You’re starting to see that. They’re not thinking about last year. They’re playing at a high level, they’re confident and they’re playing hard.”

<p class="p3">McNeese assistant coach and hitting specialist Nick Zaleski said it’s been gratifying to watch the lineup take shape and doing what they knew they could do.

<p class="p3">“They’re the ones having all the success, and they’re the ones doing it,” Zaleski said. “When you’re coaching them, you’re just trying to put them in the best spot that you can and set them up to be as successful as they can be. They certainly deserve all the praise for it.”

<p class="p3">The Cowboys will test this newfound success at the plate against one of the most dangerous rotations in the SLC. The Demons (20-16, 8-7) boast the best team ERA (3.52) in the league thanks to gutsy performances like that of Ridge Heisler (4-2, 2.77 ERA) and Nathan Jones (2-3, 3.25), both of whom last week pitched complete games. Heisler threw his first complete-game shutout and earned the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Pitcher of the Week award.

<p class="p3">Heisler will pitch tonight and Jones will go Sunday with Jerry Maddox (3-3, 2.43) taking Saturday’s duties.

<p class="p3">Hill spoke highly of the NSU pitching staff and the way they play under Bobby Barbier.

<p class="p3">“They’re good,” Hill said. “They play hard, they play right. I have the utmost respect for Bobby (Barbier) and what he does. The guy does it right.

<p class="p3">“They will be in the conference tournament. I don’t think there is any doubt about it.”

<p class="p3">McNeese will use its normal rotation with Grant Anderson (3-3, 3.21) pitching tonight and Bryan King (3-2, 3.80) pitching Saturday. Hill said Sunday’s starting position will remain open until the first two games, with the ideal situation being Tyler Wesley (3-2, 4.54) taking the role.

<p class="p3">With four conference series remaining, the Cowboys have little desire to let their hot streak end at four games.

<p class="p3">Their sweep of New Orleans last week vaulted them into a second-place tie with Southeastern Louisiana, a favorable spot with the SLC Tournament next month.

<p class="p3">“Everybody wants to compete for a championship just like we did last year,” said catcher Dustin Duhon. “It’s good to have this momentum going into another conference weekend.”

<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>Northwestern St. </strong></span><strong>at McNeese, </strong><strong>6 p.m., CST</strong>