Cowboy baseball returns Friday night

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 5:04 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) -The McNeese Baseball season opener is finally less than a week away as the Cowboys look to defend their back-to-back conference championships, but Coach Justin Hill is trying to keep the chip on his team’s shoulder.

“I know they like to talk repeat, threepeat, all that kind of stuff,” Hill said. “I told them ‘Hey man, I am not defending anything because no one is coming to get my stuff.’ They ain’t getting it. It ain’t like a UFC title belt where I got to give it up so, they make new ones every time. they ain’t coming to get mine so I told them this team has done anything.”

While no one is actively looking to take their rings, the rest of the Southland will present a challenge as they look to knock the Cowboys off their throne. A big part of this year’s title defense will be a change in offensive philosophy as the Pokes must replace more than half of their extra-base production from 2021.

“I feel like our role on the field doesn’t change so we may have lost some guys but we have also reloaded,” said Outfielder Payton Harden. “The thing is I feel like we are faster than ever now. It may not be the same game where we play the long ball game, but we are going to run and we are going to run and we are going to run some more.”

“It was definitely hard losing some guys that would stand in the box and just hit and that’s just how they played,” said Outfielder Julian Gonzales. “I don’t think that has made us change our role any with losing them, I think if anything it makes us access different tools in our bag that we have always had but maybe hasn’t shown up as much and now we will use different ways of playing the game to execute what we need to do. "

From a pitching aspect, McNeese lost their top two starters in ace Will Dion and Jonathan Ellison, but with the schedule changing back to three-game conference series, the need for an inning-eater like Dion isn’t quite as critical. With three experienced starters and a solid bullpen behind them, the Cowboys don’t think their pitching staff will regress much.

“Last year we had some bullpen games when everyone is going to throw because we had some guys that struggled to start some times so they would have to come in and we aren’t going to have those arms burnout now,” said Closer Cameron Foster.

“Personally this year I think our bullpen has grown so it honestly helps that we even have three games now because I see so many guys pitching this year,” said Pitcher Ty Abraham. “It’s one of the best pitching staffs that I have been on since I’ve been playing baseball to be honest.”

The Cowboys host a historically dangerous Stony Brook team for a weekend serious starting Friday at 6 p.m. with Bryson Hudgens expected to get the starting nod.

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