Justin Hill becomes all-time winningest coach as McNeese tops Nicholls in Southland Tournament
LAKE CHARLES, La. – McNeese will play for a spot in the championship for the third-straight year after the top-seeded Cowboys took care of business in an 8-4 win over No. 4 Nicholls in Friday evening’s winner’s bracket game at Joe Miller Ballpark.
With the win, Cowboys head coach Justin Hill becomes the all-time winningest coach in program history and moves to 11th on the Southland’s all-time wins list at 264, passing the late Tony Robichaux.
McNeese closer Cameron Foster proved his title as Southland Conference Relief Pitcher of the Year, striking out a career-high 10 batters across five innings of relief. He picks up his 12th save of the season and moves into a tie for ninth in conference history in single-season saves. Friday marked his fifth game of the season with at least three innings and five strikeouts.
On the offensive side, the middle of the Cowboy lineup enjoyed the most success with clean-up hitter Brad Burckel and six-hole Julian Gonzales combining to hit 7-of-12 with four RBI and four runs. Gonzales capped a perfect 4-for-4 outing with a solo shot in the ninth to go with three singles.
The Colonels (26-24) sent eight to the plate in the opening inning, taking advantage of Chance Stone’s location struggles by drawing four walks and a hit-by-pitch. Despite not registering a hit, Nicholls managed to bring two around to score.
The Cowboys (32-21) responded in the ensuing half-inning when Andruw Gonzales blasted his first home run of the season to level the score at 2-2, and Kade Hunter followed suit with a no-doubter to left for his second home run of the tournament.
After the Colonels plated a third run on a throwing error by Burrell Jones, McNeese regained the lead on a Kade Morris RBI single. Theriot, who also struggled with command, loaded the bases on back-to-back walks but managed to get out of the jam and limit the damage to one run.
Notching one on the scoreboard for the fourth-straight inning, McNeese doubled its lead in the fifth as Brad Burckel led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a Julian Gonzales single to the right side. In his next at-bat, Burckel delivered a bases-loaded single with two outs to make it a 7-3 Cowboy lead.
Nicholls is set for a rematch with No. 8 UIW in an elimination game at 1 p.m. CT Saturday with the winner slated to face McNeese at 6 p.m.
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