By McNeese Sports Information Assistant Hunter Bower:
LAKE CHARLES – The McNeese baseball team will face off against Nicholls, Wednesday, May 21, at 4 p.m., in a rematch of the regular season series finale, on the opening day of the 2014 Southland Conference Tournament set to take place at Bear Stadium on the campus of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas.
The Cowboys earned the No. 7 seed in this year's tournament after finishing the regular season with a 28-26 overall mark and a 17-13 record in league action. The 28 wins are the most for a McNeese team since 2010 and also garnered its most conference victories since 2006. The Cowboys will make their 13th appearance and third consecutive in the SLC Tournament where they have a 13-19 all-time record in tournament history. McNeese has won the tournament title twice in its history (1993, 2003).
Nicholls, who will enter as the No. 2 seed, had its best finish in school history with a 32-24 record and a 21-9 mark in conference after finishing 10th in the standings last season with a 5-22 league mark. The Colonels are making their fifth trip to the postseason and first since 2011. Nicholls has claimed one tournament title with the win coming in 1998.
The winner of the McNeese/Nicholls contest will move on to meet the winner between No. 3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and No. 6 Central Arkansas, who play at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Islanders are returning to the conference tournament for the fourth consecutive year. A&M-Corpus Christi is making its fifth trip to the tournament after finishing the season with a 19-9 league record and 30-23 overall mark. The Islanders' quest for their first conference tournament title will start against host-institution UCA. The Bears swept their series finale against New Orleans to clinch a spot in this year's tournament. UCA is making its third trip to the tournament after winning its first title last season as the No. 7 seed. The Bears finished the regular season 17-13 in conference and 29-21 overall.
Sam Houston State won its last 12 conference games series of the season to claim its third consecutive regular-season championship and fourth overall. No. 26 Sam Houston won the Southland by one game, finishing league play with a 22-8 record to go along with a 40-15 overall record. It is the first time since 1987 that the Bearkats reached the 40-win plateau in the regular season. Sam Houston is making its 13th tournament appearance and is 27-15 all-time in the event, which includes 13-consecutive wins that produced three tournament championships in 2007, 2008 and 2009. A win in this year's tournament would give the Bearkats a league-record fifth tournament title. Sam Houston will play No. 8 seed Lamar Wednesday at noon.
Lamar won its final two conference games against Oral Roberts after dropping the series opener to finish one game ahead of the Golden Eagles for the eighth and final tournament spot. Lamar is making its second consecutive and 15th overall tournament appearance. The Cardinals last won three conference tournaments with their last title coming in 2010. Lamar finished 16-14 in the Southland and brings a 31-23 overall record to the tournament.
The winner in the Sam Houston and Lamar game will play the winner between No. 4 seed Northwestern State and No. 5 seed Southeastern Louisiana, who open the tournament Wednesday at 9 a.m. The Demons are returning to the conference tournament for the first time since 2010 when they were the No. 2 seed. Northwestern, which is making its league-leading 18th overall trip to the postseason, finished the year with a 19-11 league mark and a 31-24 overall record. The Demons' quest for their first conference tournament title will start against Southeastern, the same opponent in which they finished the regular season against. The Lions earned the No. 5 seed after ending league action with an 18-12 record after taking the series finale against the Demons, two games to one. The Lions are 33-23 overall and make the tournament field for ninth time. Southeastern is 14-16 all-time in tournament history and is still seeking its first title.
The winners of Wednesday's two early games advance to play Thursday at 4 p.m. while the losers play Thursday at 9 a.m. while the winners of Wednesday's two late games advance to play Thursday at 7 p.m. while the losers play Thursday at noon.
This marks the 28th year of the Southland Conference baseball tournament. It began in 1964 though no tournament was played between 1969 and 1992. Since it resumed in 1993, Sam Houston State and Texas State lead all conference teams with four tournament championships. The Bearkats won their first tournament title in 1996 and won three in a row from 2007 through 2009. The regular-season champion has won the tournament eight times though just three times since the tournament resumed in 1993. The last team to do that was Texas State, which won both the regular-season and tournament titles in 2011.
The tournament is set up in similar fashion to the NCAA College World Series in that there are two brackets with the winners meeting for the championship. Unlike in Omaha, the bracket winners of the Southland tournament meet in a single game to decide the championship. The winner of the Southland tournament is the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament, which begins with regional play, May 30-June 2.
The schedule of the double-elimination event has four games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Two "if-necessary" games are scheduled for Saturday before the championship game, which will be played at 1 p.m. or 5 p.m. and be available exclusively on ESPN3. The championship broadcast will be called by Chris Mycoskie, the Southland's assistant commissioner of television, and Tommy Krysan, a former Southeastern Louisiana pitcher. Every game of the tournament, which the exception of the title game, will be streamed live on the Southland Conference Digital Network, which includes Southland.org and the league's free mobile and tablet apps.
An all-tournament pass, which allows entry into all 15 possible games of the tournament, is $35 for adults and $25 for children ages 3-12. An adult single-day pass, which will include four games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with a possibility of three games on Saturday, is $14 each day, while a single-day pass for children is $10. If Saturday features only one game, then tickets for the championship will be $9 for adults and $7 for children. Students at Southland Conference institutions will also gain free admission with a valid student ID. Tickets are available for purchase in person at the Central Arkansas ticket office, by phone at 501-852-2234, and online at the university's athletics website at www.ucasports.com/tickets.
The winner of the 2014 tournament receives an automatic qualification to the NCAA tournament. The selection show airs Monday, May 26 at 11 a.m., CDT, on ESPNU.
2014 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament Schedule Wednesday, May 21 Game One: No. 5 Southeastern La. vs. No. 4 Northwestern St., 9 a.m.
Game Two: No. 8 Lamar vs. No. 1 Sam Houston St., Noon Game Three: No. 7 McNeese St. vs. No. 2 Nicholls, 4 p.m.
Game Four: No. 6 Central Arkansas vs. No. 3 A&M-Corpus Christi, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 22
Game Five: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 9 a.m.
Game Six: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, Noon Game Seven: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 4 p.m.
Game Eight: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 23
Game Nine: Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 5, 9 a.m.
Game 10: Loser Game 8 vs. Winner Game 6, Noon Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9, 4 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 10, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 24
*#Game 13: Loser Game 11 vs. Winner Game 11, 9 a.m.
^#Game 14: Loser Game 12 vs. Winner Game 12, 1 p.m.
+Championship: Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 14, 1 or 5 p.m.
* Game 13 will be necessary if the winner of Game 9 also wins Game 11.
^ Game 14 will be necessary if the winner of Game 10 also wins Game 12.
# If only one of the two early games is necessary on Saturday, it will be played at 9 a.m., with the Championship Game starting at 1 p.m.
+ If both bracket winners are undefeated, the championship game will be played on Saturday at 1 p.m.