LAKE CHARLES – Home games against NCAA Super Regional finalists Mississippi State and Sam Houston State, along with a season-opening three game home series versus Wichita State, highlights the 2018 McNeese Baseball schedule that features 31 home games, which was released on Monday.
In addition to those attractive home contests, McNeese, the 2017 Southland Conference champions, will host NCAA Regional participant Houston and Southeastern Louisiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, UTSA, as well as conference home series against Abilene Christian, Northwestern State, Central Arkansas, and a non-league series versus Prairie-View.
“I’m very appreciative of (Mississippi State head coach Andy) Coach Cannizaro for bringing his team here to play while their stadium is under construction,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “There are a lot of great teams in our area, and he chose us. That says a lot about our program and fan support.”
This will be the second straight year McNeese will host a team from the powerful Southeastern Conference. In 2017, the Cowboys defeated LSU 5-4 last March. The Tigers went on to finish as the national runner-up in last season’s College World Series.
The Bulldogs advanced to the Super Regionals last season, falling to LSU in Baton Rouge. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the diamond.
In all, McNeese will play three teams that played in last year’s Super Regional round (LSU, Mississippi State, Sam Houston State), and two others who advanced to the Regionals (Houston, Texas).
McNeese will visit Houston on March 7 then will host the Cougars six days later on March 13. The Cowboys will play at Texas on April 2. The Cowboys will go to Baton Rouge on May 9 to face the Tigers.
The Cowboys dropped both games against Houston last season by one run in each contest. This will be the first game against Texas since 2002.
“Every year you try to put together a schedule that will be challenging, and if you take care of business, will put you in position to play in the NCAA tournament,” said Hill whose team was left out of last year’s bracket despite winning the league regular season championship along with quality wins over LSU, Southeastern Louisiana, Sam Houston State, Missouri State, and a three-game sweep at Creighton. “We have a great collection of home games that will be very entertaining matchups for our fans.”
The Cowboys, 37-20 a season ago and 22-5 at home, will open the season February 16-18 at Joe Miller Ballpark against Wichita State, who is coached by former McNeese player and head coach Todd Butler.
After visits to Louisiana Tech and a three-game weekend series at Texas State, McNeese will host Mississippi State on Feb. 28. That will be followed by a three-game home slate against UTSA.
The Cowboys will open defense of their league title March 9-11 at home against Central Arkansas, who they swept in the regular season but dropped a game in the second round of the SLC tournament.
Other conference home series includes Southeastern Louisiana (March 29-31), Abilene Christian (April 6-8), Northwestern State (April 20-22), and Sam Houston State (April 27-29).
Road league series are scheduled at Stephen F. Austin (March 16-18), New Orleans (April 13-15), A&M-Corpus Christi (May 4-6), and at Lamar (May 17-19).
McNeese, who won its first 14 home games on the schedule, went 12-3 in conference home games last season, helping boost it to a 22-8 overall league record.
“The conference schedule will once again be a grind,” said Hill. “We have so many good programs and coaches in our league. Every weekend is a dog fight.”
In between league series, the Cowboys will visit Houston on March 7 and will host the Cougars on March 13; will host ULL on March 21 before making a return trip to Lafayette on April 10; will host Louisiana Tech on March 27; will visit Texas on April 2; will host HBU on April 17 and will return a trip on May 1 for two non-conference midweek games; will play at Louisiana-Monroe on April 24 before hosting ULM on May 15; at LSU on May 9; and will host Prairie View for a three-game series May 12-13.
“I like that there’s no let up in our schedule,” said Hill. “It will stretch our guys and they will have to bring it every day.”
The Cowboys will also host LSU-Alexandria on April 4. The Generals played in the NAIA National Championship Tournament last season after posting 33 wins on the season.
The Southland Conference Tournament will return to Sugar Land, Texas and Constellation Field May 23-26.