FRISCO, Texas — The Southland Conference’s 59th baseball season kicks off with a full slate of competition Friday, starting with preseason favorite Southeast hosting SIUE at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN+. Two-time defending Southland Baseball Tournament champion McNeese opens his 2022 campaign against Stony Brook at 6 p.m.
South East Lions – Pre-season ranking: 1st – 2021 record: 32-24 (22-17 SLC)
The Lions were voted preseason favorites for the first time since the 2016 season, when SLU received the program’s first general offer to the NCAA after posting a 40-21 mark and a 22-8 league record. . Led by the league’s active leader in winning percentage in Matt Riser (.612), the Lions earned the league’s top eight all-conference preseason picks, led by five first-team nods. SLU’s schedule features 17 games against teams from last season’s NCAA Tournament, including a three-game preseason No. 2 Arkansas (March 4-6) and midweek tilts with other preseason poll meetings at Ole Miss (March 15) and LSU (May 10).
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 18 vs. SIUE — 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
McNeese Cowboys – Pre-season ranking: 2nd – 2021 record: 32-30 (21-18 SLC)
After COVID-19 derailed the Cowboys’ bid to win baseball tournament titles from Southland in consecutive years, the Pokes still managed to come back back to back with another 4-0 run on the field. of 64. While McNeese lost a handful of veterans who were a part of both championship teams, the program still attracted a trio of preseason all-league winners, including returning All-Star picks. -Southland Tre Obregon III and Payton Harden. The Cowboys get an early test in a five-game streak in the first week of March with a three-game home slate against 2021 regional host Louisiana Tech (March 4-6) sandwiched between road games against champion SWAC Southern (March 1) and SEC power LSU (March 8).
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 18 vs. Stony Brook – 6 p.m.
New Orleans Privateers – Preseason ranking: 3rd – 2021 record: 29-28 (23-17 SLC)
The Privateers managed to return to the conference tournament with an impressive campaign that resulted in the No. 2 seed, but UNO is looking for more after being picked to finish third this spring. Three of the Privateers’ four all-preseason conference selections have landed in the first team after the trio received second-team all-league recognition last year. The UNO slate features 11 games against the NCAA Tournament Playoffs, including back and forth with LSU, South Alabama, Southern Miss and Southern, and the Privateers have also scheduled a three-game series with the 12 big foes of the Kansas and Oklahoma.
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 18 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff – 7 p.m.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders – Preseason ranking: 4th – 2021 record: 25-29 (20-14 SLC)
A year after Scott Malone, the league’s winningest active coach (348), led the Islanders to their first conference winning record since 2014, the team is picked to finish fourth in a competitive Southland. A&M-Corpus Christi landed five spots on all preseason conference rosters, including first-team Hayden Thomas and Josh Caraway. The Islanders won’t leave the Lone Star State until mid-March when they visit defending Big Ten champion Nebraska for a three-game series March 18-20. However, a double bill with preseason No. 1 Texas on Feb. 22-23 and a visit to 2021 Big 12 Tournament champion TCU on March 15 also tops the non-conference roster.
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 18 at UT-Arlington – 3 p.m.
Northwestern State Demons – Preseason ranking: 5th – 2021 record: 27-26 (20-16 SLC)
The Demons enter the 2022 season as pre-season No.5 in Southland, despite having the second-highest league winning percentage since 2018 (0.556). NSU’s throwing appears to be its strength with starters Cal Carver and Donovan Ohnoutka and reliever Drayton Brown representing the Demons on the All-Southland preseason rosters. Additionally, starter Jonathan Harmon was named the league’s top 2022 MLB Draft prospect by D1Baseball. The Demons will host opponents at Brown-Stroud Field 28 times this season and close out the year looking for a third straight win over LSU when they visit Alex Box Stadium on May 17.
Game 1: Friday, February 18 vs. Stephen F. Austin – 6:30 p.m.
UIW Cardinals – Preseason Ranking: 6th – 2021 Record: 21-28 (17-23 SLC)
The Cardinals are chosen to finish sixth after going 21-28 and 17-23 in the league last season. UIW accounted for two spots on teams in all preseason conferences, including junior shortstop Grant Smith, who led the team in hits in each of his first two seasons on the roster. He was joined on the second team by service man Nixon Brannan, a transfer from North Central Texas College. The Cardinals’ non-conference roster is highlighted by a three-weekend streak in Texas’ No. 1 preseason from March 18-20.
First match: Fri. February 18 against Bradley – 6:30 p.m.
Houston Baptist Huskies – Preseason ranking: t-7th – 2021 record: 14-38 (11-27 SLC)
Lance Berkman, World Series champion and six-time MLB All-Star, takes the reins of the Huskies program in his first post as collegiate head coach. Manager in the city where he lived for 12 of his 15 professional seasons, he will rely on the leadership of Brennen Bales, a nod to all the pre-season conferences. The junior led the team in batting average (.356), OPS (.885), slugging (.469), on-base percentage (.416) and hits (57). Berkman has set up a tough schedule for the Huskies with nine games against Power-5 conference opponents and 10 against 2021 NCAA Tournament teams.
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 18 vs. Rutgers – 2 p.m.
Nicholls Colonels – Pre-season ranking: t-7th – 2021 record: 21-34 (16-24 SLC)
The Colonels will also be under freshman head coach Mike Silva, who comes to Thibodaux after three seasons as an associate head coach at Louisiana Tech. Leading the Bulldogs’ pitching team, they had a league-best eight shutouts en route to the No. 16 national seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Nicholls is represented on teams in all preseason conferences by second teammate Austin Cain, who led the team in batting average (.283) and ranked second in OPS (.759) percentage. base (.372), points (28) and hits (49).
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 18 vs. Missouri – 6 p.m.