The Tigers are one of eight teams on the Cowboy’ impressive slate of contests who made it to the NCAA tournament in 2015. Of those eight squads, two (LSU, Arizona) won their way into a super regional while one team (Arizona) finished as the runner-up in the College World Series.
“Obviously, we have LSU coming in this season which is huge,” said head coach Justin Hill. “The last time they played here we set attendance records and that was about five years ago so there are some people who haven’t seen the new renovations to our facilities. It is going to be a great opportunity to showcase our program and some of the things we have been doing.”
With 55 games scheduled for the season, McNeese will host 28 of those within the friendly confines of The Jeaux, beginning with the revival of the storied Lake Area Classic on Feb. 17-19. The Pokes will play host to Missouri State, Rhode Island and Stony Brook for the tournament.
McNeese’s first opponent will be no slouch as the Seawolves of Stony Brook, a 2012 College World Series participant, face off against the Cowboys Friday evening at 6 p.m. McNeese will then face 2016 NCAA Tournament team Rhode Island the next day and close out the weekend with Missouri State.
“Since we started here, we have tried to find a way to get the Lake Area Classic back in and we were fortunate to have Stony Brook line up to play and then were able to fill the rest out with some quality opponents,” said Hill. “It is going to be a weekend filled with great baseball.”
Rhode Island was a competitor in the 2016 NCAA Baseball Tournament while Missouri State finished as the runner-up at the Fayetteville Super Regional in 2015.
The next four contests will be on the road as McNeese travels to ULM for a single game on Tuesday, Feb. 21 before flying out to take on 2016 College World Series runner-up Arizona in a four-game series.
The Cowboys return home for a stretch of five home games, including a date with the LSU baseball team on Wednesday, March 8 at 6 p.m. The last time the Tigers visited Lake Charles was back in 2012 where they pulled out a 19-10 victory over McNeese.
Other key non-conference games include a mid-week contest against ULM (March 1), a weekend home series against Prairie View A&M (March 3-5), a home-and-home with Houston (March 14 in Houston; May 16 in Lake Charles), a mid-week date at Tulane (March 21), a home-and-home with UL-Lafayette (March 28 in Lake Charles; April 26 in Lafayette), two games against Louisiana Tech (April 5 in Lake Charles; April 18 in Ruston).
McNeese will have a chance to see and to play where most team dream of playing in the postseason when the Cowboys travel to take on Creighton in a three-game weekend series at TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, on May 12-14.
“When talking about our non-conference schedule, you look at an opportunity at obtaining an at-large bid and also prepare for conference,” said Hill. “Obviously that means you have to play well and you are not allowed to have a bad week or bad day. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our kids but they handled that challenge well last season so I see no change this year.”
The Pokes open conference play at Central Arkansas (March 10-12) as one of five series played on the road against Southland Conference teams. Other road league series include games at Southeastern Louisiana (March 31-April 2), at Abilene Christian (April 7-9), at Northwestern State (April 21-23) and at Sam Houston State (April 28-30).
McNeese will host five Southland series, including games against Stephen F. Austin (March 17-19), Nicholls (March 24-26), New Orleans (April 13-15) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (May 5-7).
“Obviously, we realize that the conference portion of our slate is most important,” said Hill. “The Southland Conference is extremely competitive with a record number of Top-100 RPI teams from last season. This year will be no different as we pick up Sam Houston State and A&M-Corpus Christi after not having played them the last couple of years. It certainly will be a difficult league schedule.”
The Southland Conference Baseball Tournament returns to Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas on May 24-27.