LAKE CHARLES – It’s been 11 years since the last time McNeese baseball was able to hoist the Southland Conference championship trophy over their heads.
The Cowboys will get that shot beginning Thursday when the 28th-ranked Cowboys host Lamar in the final regular season conference series before starting league tournament play next week.
McNeese is 20-7 in league play, 34-17 overall, and has a magic number of two to win the title outright. The Cowboys last won the league regular season championship in 2006 and also claimed the title in 1988 and 2000.
Thursday night’s game will carry a 6 p.m. first pitch. Fans who have unused tickets throughout the season can use those for a free general admission seat for Thursday’s game only.
Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday’s (3 p.m.) games have been designated as Kid’s Day with those 12 and under admitted free while also being able to stand on the field with their favorite Cowboy player for the National Anthem.
Friday night will also be senior night for McNeese as the Cowboys will recognize their 2017 senior class in a pregame ceremony.
McNeese can win the outright title on Thursday with a win and a Houston Baptist loss. The Huskies, who are 18-9 in league play and the only team that can finish ahead of the Cowboys, play a three-game series at Stephen F. Austin.
“We have a chance to play for a championship this weekend,” said head coach Justin Hill. “These kids have put themselves in a situation at home. They control their own destiny.”
Lamar (32-21, 15-12) will come into the series winners of six straight including a three-game sweep over SFA last weekend. The Cardinals took the last two games in a weekend series at Oklahoma State then beat Southern in mid-week action last week before sweeping the Lumberjacks.
The Cardinals need one win to clinch a spot in next week’s tournament as they currently sit in a tie for fifth place with Central Arkansas.
Hill will stick with the pitching rotation of LHP Austin Sanders (6-2, 3.15 ERA) on Thursday, RHP Rhett Deaton (8-2, 3.64) on Friday and TBA on Saturday.
The Cardinals are expected to throw RHP Carson Lance (7-5, 3.60) on Thursday, RHP Jace Campbell (3-4, 4.37) on Friday and RHP Jimmy Johnson (6-4, 4.37) on Saturday.
Offensively, the Cowboys are back on top of the league in batting with a .303 team average. McNeese posted 10 hits against Houston on Tuesday night after coming off a productive offensive weekend at Creighton where it racked up 31 hits with 11 of those going for extra bases.
Left fielder Shane Selman continues to lead the team in all three triple-crown categories – .351 batting, 13 home runs and 51 runs batted in. Overall, six Cowboy players are hitting .300 or better while four more are batting at least .275.
The Cardinals are hitting .291 as a team and have five players hitting .300 or better.
Right fielder Cutter McDowell leads the team with a .367 batting average while first baseman Trey Silvers is tops with 10 home runs. McDowell is listed a doubtful for this weekend as he’s missed the last seven games due to an injury.