Location: Lake Charles, Louisiana. An oil refinery town that also has a thriving business of providing venues in which Texans can gamble away their hard-earned dollars, at least until Texas wises up and legalizes gambling so that its citizens stop traveling to Louisiana (and Oklahoma) to do it. If you want to call this place “Shreveport South,” buddy am I not ever going to stop you.
The Mascot: The Cowboys, which is definitely something I associate with Louisiana.
Record: 35-24, 16-14 in the Southland Conference.
How’d they get here? Automatic bid, like everybody else here. The Cowboys finished in a tie for fifth, four games behind Sam Houston State in the regular season, but went 4-0 in the conference tournament to get here.
Best win: Well, this isn’t a hard question. McNeese beat LSU — in Baton Rouge! — by a 2-0 score on March 26. The Cowboys only got four hits that day but took advantage of an equally inept offensive performance from LSU to snatch a win.
Most embarrassing loss: In terms of individual games, losing 6-2 to 18-35, #220 RPI Houston Baptist with their purported ace on the mound is an eyesore. On the other hand, getting swept by Incarnate Word at home works in terms of an overall series, not because Incarnate Word is bad, per se — they did go 37-22 and finish with an RPI 109 — but because something about the name “Incarnate Word” evokes a certain “Little Sisters of the Poor” quality that suggests you should not be getting swept by this team at home.
Most terrifying batter: It’s probably “utility player” Nate Fisbeck, who leads McNeese in homers (12), doubles (21), and slugging percentage (.543), and also has a .304 batting average. With that said, Fisbeck also strikes out quite a bit, and this overall isn’t a terrifying offense — McNeese basically had a slightly-above-average offense in the Southland.
Best pitcher: Well, that’s probably the aforementioned Rhett Deaton, but he’ll probably get the ball against Indiana State on Friday and remove himself from having to face the Vandy offense. In terms of pitchers Vanderbilt might actually face, only one other pitcher started 10 games this season, and that pitcher has a 6.04 ERA. So we’ll probably go with sometime-closer Will Dion, who threw 46.2 innings and allowed just 25 hits and 14 walks, with 59 strikeouts.
Best NCAA Tournament result: McNeese has made the tournament four times previously, and never advanced out of the regional — and in the two most recent appearances, they were bounced quickly after going 0-2. In the old, six-team regional format they went twice (1988 and 1993) and both times did manage to beat the regional 5-seed in the loser’s bracket, though.
Should Vanderbilt Be Scared? Not really. Vanderbilt, as the #2 national seed, has every right to be upset about drawing a fairly strong 4-seed in Ohio State; but that’s balanced out by getting probably the weakest 3-seed in the field. Of course, unless either McNeese can upset Indiana State on Friday or Vanderbilt screws up somewhere, Vanderbilt will probably get through the regional without seeing the Cowboys anyway.