Tigertown for a Day - An article by Jim GazzoloNov 08, 2023 09:51AM ● By Jessica Waldrop
Photo by Leighton Chamblee/McNeese Athletics McNeese shortstop Jordan Thompson throws over LSU runner Paxton King Sunday at Joe Miller Ballpark in Lake Charles.
It isn’t every day the national champs come to Lake Charles.
So when the LSU baseball team rolled into town last Sunday it caught the attention of more than a few of the locals.
McNeese State played host to the champs for a fall exhibition day inside Joe Miller Ballpark. While the rules were a little lax – LSU batted 11 guys in their opening lineup – that didn’t matter to the overflow crowd that took up almost every inch of the stadium.
“This was a great atmosphere,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill, who played two seasons at LSU. “We really appreciate LSU and head coach Jay Johnson for coming here to play. They can play anywhere.”
That is the key point to remember. LSU could go anywhere to play and have done so. The fact that the Tigers decided to play at McNeese says a lot about the Cowboy program, which Hill has built into one that is respected both locally and nationally.
The Tigers aren’t coming if the facilities aren’t up to their standards or the opponent can’t play at a level that is worth their time. So just agreeing to come to McNeese says all you need to know when it comes to what the best of college baseball thinks of the Cowboys.
“We get to show off our stadium and talents to people as well,” Hill said. “That is a good thing for us.”
And the Cowboys showed they can compete with the best. The two teams agreed to play 18 innings with the first 10 being Game 1. The other eight would be more like a scrimmage.
Over the first 10 innings, McNeese battled even with the national champs, as the two teams finished tied at 5-5. They did not play it out, instead moving on to the next portion of the day.
LSU won the 8-inning battle 4-1.
“It was great for us to play in this setting,” said Hill. “To get a chance to play against a team like them is a big opportunity for us. It may never happen here again.”
McNeese hopes that they made more than a few new fans on the day as well, opening up their stadium to LSU and baseball fans from the area.
“There were a lot of Cowboy fans here as well,” said Hill. “They are an elite program so you knew they would have a lot of followers but I was happy to see our fans show up as well. And I hope some of those who were here for the first time come back.”
What is possibly more important is how LSU viewed the day. The Tigers haven’t played in Lake Charles since 2017 and before that, it was back in 2012, so this doesn’t happen often.
By coming for a fall game it gives McNeese credibility and a chance to be looked at by other big programs.
The outcome is just a score, the event was far more important.
Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese athletics. He is the host of Poke Nation on CBS-Lake Charles.