Defending Southland champion McNeese returns to field to prep for 2018 season

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LAKE CHARLES – The reigning Southland Conference champion McNeese baseball squad will hit the field for the first time as a full unit on Friday afternoon as it prepares for the 2018 season with the opener just a few weeks away on Feb. 16 at home against Wichita State.

The Cowboys, 37-20 in 2017 with a 22-8 conference record, returns five starting position players and two starting pitchers to the 2018 roster which also includes 14 newcomers.

The squad will practice Friday afternoon and will hold intrasquad scrimmages Saturday following the 1 p.m. alumni game, and also at 3 on Sunday.

“I’m excited to see our team get back together on the field,” said reigning SLC Coach of the Year Justin Hill who is entering his fifth season and is the only coach in school history to record 30 or more wins in his first four years. “We have a lot of work to do over the next three weeks.

“From what I’ve seen in the group work, it looks like the guys did a good job of staying in shape and preparing for team practice. This is important because we still have jobs that are wide open, and I am looking forward to seeing the guys compete.”

One of the returners is junior outfielder Shane Selman, last year’s Southland Conference Hitter of the Year, who is expected to make a run at the league’s player of the year award this season.

Selman hit .333 last season with 14 home runs, 16 doubles and knocked in 59 runs. Senior second baseman Joe Provenzano, a first team All-SLC selection, also returns after hitting .336 with six homers, 12 double and 54 RBI. In addition, Provenzano was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American and was named the league’s Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year.

Senior Mitchell Rogers will play first base and is coming off a season where he hit .3-2 with nine home runs, 11 doubles and 20 RBI while junior Dustin Duhon, who set up behind the plate last season, could make a move to the outfield to free up the catching duties for newcomer Andrew Bryan who transferred in from Delta State but prior to that stint, hit .342 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in starting 55 games behind the plate at Seminole State Community College.

On the mound, the Cowboys will see the return of lefty Bryan King (3-4, 6.35 ERA in 2017) and Aidan Anderson (3-2, 7.78) but also required the services of RHP Cayne Ueckert out of Panola Junior College who posted a 2-2 record in 10 starts last season with 44 strikeouts in 37.1 innings pitched.

The bullpen is loaded and led by returners Grant Anderson (8-0, 2.30 ERA) and Peyton McLemore (1-1, 2.90). Anderson is expected to be the ace of the relief staff for the second straight season.

Several newcomers are expected to battle for starting positions.

Junior transfer Carson Maxwell, a NJCAA All-American last year out of Galveston JC, will battle to start at third base. Maxwell hit .443 last season, collecting 97 base hits with six of those home runs and 27 doubles.

Freshman shortstop Reid Bourque (Sam Houston HS) and LHP Adam Goree (Barbe HS) should contend for starting nods at their respective positions.

The Cowboys open up their season Feb. 16-18 at home in a three-game series against Wichita State and will begin defense of their league title March 9-11 at home against Central Arkansas.

NOTE: McNeese has two sets of twins on its team – juniors Aidan and Grant Anderson, and freshmen Adam and Alex Goree.

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