The McNeese Cowboys have been selected to repeat as Southland Conference regular season baseball champions.
The vote was done by SLC head coaches and sports information directors and was released on Friday as part of the 2023 All-SLC Preseason Teams were released by the conference office.
In addition, longtime skipper Justin Hill’s team, who return a large portion of their 2022 squad, landed a SLC-high eight players on the preseason all-conference team, five on the first team and three on the second.
For the poll, McNeese led with 118 points and seven first place votes, beating out Southeastern who had 115 votes. The Lions defeated McNeese in last year’s conference tournament championship series. Lamar was third with 88 votes followed by New Orleans (87), Northwestern State (65), Nicholls (59), A&M-Corpus Christi (55), HCU (41) and UIW (20).
McNeese outfielder Payton Harden, last year’s SLC Player of the Year and an ABCA South All-Region selection, headlines the eight Pokes on the preseason team.
Harden led the team and league with a .378 batting average last season along with topping the conference with 85 base hits. He also ranked third in the conference with 26 stolen bases. He’ll enter the new season with 252 career hits, just three shy of becoming the school’s career hits leader.
Joining Harden on the first team is second baseman Brad Burckel along with third baseman Josh Leslie, starting pitcher Grant Rogers and reliever Burrell Jones. Designated hitter Kade Hunter, outfielder Braden Duhon and utility player Tre Obregon III were named to the second team.
Burckel, who was a second team All-SLC and ABCA South All-Region selection last season, finished right behind Harden in batting, ranking second on the team and in the league with a .373 average and 81 base hits. He also slugged .618 (third in the SLC) and posted a .459 on-base percentage (3rd in SLC).
Leslie earned first team All-SLC honors last season after hitting .331 with six home runs and 33 runs batted in. He added nine doubles, a triple, and went 9 for 11 in stolen bases.
In his first season as a Cowboy, Rogers was named the SLC’s Pitcher of the Year after posting a 7-4 record in 15 appearances with 14 starts. His wins total tied for the conference lead while his 72 strikeouts in 82.1 innings pitched ranked as the fifth-most in the league last season. Opponents hit just .228 against him on the year while his 4.26 ERA was ranked sixth in the SLC.
Burrell Jones had a productive season in his first as a Cowboy last year, compiling a 4-0 record with a 2.11 ERA in 21 appearances. Jones struck out 36 batters in 42.2 innings pitched and allowed just six extra base-hits.
Hunter earned All-SLC third team honors last season after posting a .282 batting average with seven homers and 33 RBIs. His home run total was the third-most on the team. He also belted 13 doubles and scored 36 runs.
Duhon was named to the All-SLC second team last year following a break-out season that saw him finish third on the team with a .329 batting average. His 68 total hits also ranked third on the squad and ninth in the Southland. In addition, he recorded seven doubles and was second on the team with three triples.
Obregon was on the fast track to a stellar year until an injury sidelined him after 15 games. Before injury struck, he was hitting .357 with two home runs, 10 RBIs, two doubles and a triple. A 2021 All-SLC second team selection, Obregon is healthy for the 2023 season.
McNeese will begin the season on Feb. 17 at Joe Miller Ballpark in a three-game series against Creighton.