CONWAY, Arkansas – The McNeese baseball team came into the 2014 season expected to finish almost last in the league but instead walked out of Bear Stadium in Conway as the third best team in the Southland Conference Tournament despite falling to Central Arkansas, 8-6, in a gutsy effort put forth by the Cowboys.
McNeese (30-28) was eliminated from the tournament with the loss but finished as one of the top three teams while Central Arkansas (32-21) advanced on to face Southeastern Louisiana in the SLC Tournament championship on Saturday.
The Cowboys were voted to finish eighth and tenth by league head coaches and sports information directors at the beginning of the season and set out on a mission to prove the critics wrong. At the end of the day, McNeese did just that.
Along with first year head coach Justin Hill, McNeese scored its first 30+ win season in nearly five years, finished with the most conference victories (17) since 2012 and went 2-2 in a postseason tournament.
The Cowboys also broke or tied five school records, six NCAA records and one Southland Conference record.
"I could not be more proud of what this team has accomplished this season," said Hill. "We had eight great seniors that helped raise the bar for this program. I thought we played our best baseball this evening, which is what you always ask for. We were ready for a fight tonight and a lot of credit goes to UCA who played well. It was a good game and a great atmosphere all-around.
The Cowboys bid farewell to their eight seniors on the night as well, recognizing Hans Ask, Michael Desabrais, Taylor Drake, Jackson Gooch, Reed Gordy, Chayse Marion, Sam Peterson and Matt Williams.
"Since the first day that I arrived on campus, these seniors bought in to this program and what we wanted to do as a staff," said Hill. "I will always remember this special season and the people who were apart of it."
Unlike the night before, the miscues went the way of Central Arkansas early in the game as McNeese got out to an quick 3-0 lead following an RBI-single up the middle from Chayse Marion while Matt Gallier added a run on an infield single. On the next play and with the bases loaded UCA pitcher Chris Caudle hit second baseman Hans Ask to allow the Cowboys to go up three runs over the Bears.
Junior Andrew Guillotte added to his school record season at-bat total Friday evening as he climbed to 247 at-bats on the 2014 season. Guillotte also recorded his 56th career steal during the contest, as well.
However, the miscues turned towards the way of McNeese who allowed Central Arkansas to come back and take a two run lead over the Cowboys after scoring five runs in the top of the second inning to take a 5-3 lead over the Cowboys.
The Bears added to their lead with a two run fourth inning with an RBI-single coming from Langley while a double from Zimmerlee drove in another run to put UCA up 7-3.
When it seemed that there was no hope left for the Pokes, second baseman Hans Ask gave McNeese some life as his infield single in the bottom of the fifth scored Lloyd from third. During the same play, a throwing error from the Central Arkansas shortstop allowed right fielder Matt Williams to score and cut the lead to a 7-5 score in favor of the Bears.
Central Arkansas tacked on another run in the next inning on a sacrifice fly from Zimmerlee to put the Bears up 8-5 over the Cowboys.
McNeese's attempt at a late comeback fell just short after Lloyd's RBI-single through the left scored the final Cowboy run that cut the lead to an 8-6 score in favor of Central Arkansas.
Michael Clemens (4-4) was tagged with the loss after tossing just 1.2 innings, having given up five runs on two hits and four walks.