Cowboys picked for first: An article by Jim Gazzolo
The defending regular season champs are back for more.
By Jim Gazzolo
McNeese State, which won the Southland Conference title and came within a game of capturing the postseason tournament as well, is picked to win the league again.
McNeese got seven first-place votes and edged last year’s tourney champs from Southeaster 118-115 in the preseason poll of head coaches and sports information directors.
The Lions beat McNeese in last year’s championship series. The Cowboys will open the season on Feb. 17 at home against Creighton.
“We are excited about this upcoming season,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill.
Lamar was picked for third with 88 points followed by New Orleans 87.
The Southland postseason tournament will be held in Lake Charles in May.
McNeese placed five players on the SLC’s preseason first-team and three more on the second.
Outfielder Payton Harden, last season’s league Player of the Year, highlights the group. Harden hit .378 and his 252 hits are just three shy of the school career record.
Second baseman Brad Burckel, third baseman Josh Leslie and pitchers Grant Rogers and Burrell Jones join Harden on the first team.
Kade Hunter, Branden Dun and Tre Oregon were selected to the second team.
Burckel hit .373 with 81 hits last year. He finished third in the league in slugging (.618) and on-base percentage (.459) while scoring 62 runs.
Leslie finished last season with a .331 average, six home runs and 33 runs batted in. He was 9-for-11 in stolen bases.
Rogers was the SLC’s Pitcher of the Year after posting a 7-4 record with a 4.26 earned run average. Jones, a reliever, was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 21 appearances.
Duhon, an outfielder, hit .329 with seven doubles and three triples. Hunter hit .282 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs.
Oregon was hitting .357 last spring with two homers and 10 RBIs in 15 games before an injury sidelined him for the season.
McNeese is looking to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four seasons.
Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer and host of Poke Nation for CBS Lake Charles.