By McNeese Sports Information Assistant Hunter Bower:
CONWAY, Arkansas – The McNeese baseball team enters the 2014 Southland Conference Tournament as the seven seed and will play the second seeded Nicholls in a rematch of the regular season series finale in the first round on Wednesday, May 21 at 4 p.m.
The Cowboys will play the third game of the tournament, which will begin approximately 45 minutes after the conclusion of the Lamar and Sam Houston State contest, which starts at noon.
Wednesday's contest will be streamed live on the Southland Digital Network, with Chris Mycoskie, the Southland's assistant commissioner of television and former Southeastern Louisiana pitcher Tommy Krysan calling the action.
Every game of the SLC Tournament will be broadcast on Cajun Radio-1470 AM in Lake Charles and online at cajunradio.com, with Bruce Merchant providing the call.
Wednesday's game between McNeese and Nicholls will mark the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. The winner of Wednesday's contest will move on to face the winner of the Central Arkansas and the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi game on Thursday at 7 p.m.
McNeese (28-26, 17-13 SLC) enters as the seventh seed and is coming off a road SLC series loss at Nicholls. The Cowboys were swept on Sunday in a 5-2 loss to the Colonels while also dropping a 6-0 and 3-1 contests to the home team, respectively.
Sophomore right-hander Kaleb Fontenot will make his 16th appearance and 10th start of the season on Wednesday. Fontenot enters the game with a 5-2 record and a 2.31 ERA. Fontenot started the year with six relief appearances before taking over as the Friday night starter for the Cowboys. He currently leads the pitching staff with five wins, and a .246 opposing batting average.
Senior first baseman Chayse Marion continues to lead the team with a .329 batting clip. He has collected team-highs 70 hits, .451 slugging percentage and finished the regular season with a .417 on-base percentage. The senior outfielder drove in 38 runs while hitting 12 doubles, a triple, four homers and scoring 40 runs and stealing 10 bases. He also drew the most walks (29) during the season.
Outfielder Jackson Gooch finished the regular season with the second highest batting average (.315) after he collected 69 hits, 12 doubles, a triple, two home runs, drove in 38 RBI and scored 54 runs. He also stole 12 of 14 bases and goes into the postseason with a perfect fielding percentage.
Nicholls enters the SLC Tournament as the second seed after finishing 21-9 in conference play and will take a 32-24 overall record as the second seed into conference tournament later this week. The Colonels are coming off of a 12-win turnaround in conference play from a season ago. The Colonels finished ninth in the standings last year with a 9-18 league mark and a 26-29 overall record. Nicholls is the first team in conference history to win more than 20 league games the season after posting single-digit conference wins.
The Colonels leading hitter during the regular season was Leo Vargas. Vargas hit .302 with six doubles, two triples, two homers and 23 RBI. He also led the team with 17 stolen bases. Keith Cormier is second on the team with a .295 clip and has recorded the most hits (66), doubles (13) and RBI (43).
Nicholls will counter with junior right-hander Ryan Deemes against the Cowboys on Wednesday. Deemes will make his 17th appearance and 12th start of the season. He is 3-3 on the season and holds a 3.40 ERA through 53.0 innings and has given up just 20 earned runs on 60 hits and 14 walks.
McNeese and Nicholls have faced each other only once in the SLC Tournament as one of the least played series in the annual event for the Cowboys. The two teams met in the first round of the 1998 tournament in Shreveport, La. The Colonels won the first and only meeting between the two teams with a 12-9 victory over the Cowboys and went on to win the conference tournament and earn a bid into the NCAA Tournament.