McNeese baseball opens Southland Conference play with win over Nicholls

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:42 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - McNeese baseball opened Southland Conference play with an 8-3 win over the Nicholls Colonels on Friday, in a game that was moved up from 6:00 to noon due to the threat of incoming weather.

When Grant Rogers threw the first pitch at noon to get the game started, the wind was blowing hard to the outfield, making it a bit of a hitter’s ballpark, and the Pokes were able to take advantage of it.

Brad Burckel put McNeese on the board first in the first inning as he smashed a 409-foot home run to left center field, his fourth homer of the season, as McNeese took a 1-0 lead in the ballgame, but McNeese, who hasn’t relied on the long ball this season, was far from done. Chase Keeton, who was making his first start of the season, and not in his typical position of the outfield, but instead first base, added to the McNeese lead in the third inning with his first career home run, a two-run 386-foot bomb that hit the flag pole in left-center field, putting McNeese up 3-0.

Later in the fifth inning Taylor Darden got in on the fun as he too hit his first career home run, a 417-foot blast over the scoreboard in left field, and then Keeton nearly did it again, but he was able to leg out an RBI triple which brought in Braden Duhon to put the Pokes up 5-0.

On the mound Grant Rogers was doing what he does best: dealing, Rogers went seven innings striking out seven, but his sixth and seventh innings were a bit rocky as he allowed six hits, and three runs, but it was enough to get his sixth win of the season to start the year 6-0.

“The biggest thing is that we did it, we played at noon on a Friday, we handled the change in schedule and we handled the kind of whole thing that went with it,” said Pokes head coach Justin Hill. “Our guys showed up, and our guys hit, I mean all the things that you want with it so, obviously anytime is good to get a win, but when you do it through some adversarial situations, it’s a little sweeter.”

Hill also discussed the decision to play Chase Keeton, giving him his first start of the season at first base as opposed to the outfield, and how big he was for McNeese on Friday saying “He performed really really well, an opportunity arose with Braley Hollins, the hit by pitch that he took on Tuesday put him out for the weekend and it’s a fracture, we don’t know how long he’s going to be out, so obviously that’s a terrible thing but being ready for your moment, you can’t talk about it enough, how important it is to be ready.”

“It was incredible, loved being out there with my guys, Grant threw well, the defense played well, just made a couple of good swings, we executed when we needed to and had a great time,” said Keeton. “It’s huge, gives us the confidence to win tomorrow and Sunday, why not us? That’s kind of been the mentality that we have here.”

Saturday’s first pitch was moved up to 2:00 with Sunday’s first pitch remaining at 1:00.