Southland names Harden Baseball Athlete of the Year

Payton Harden’s postseason is becoming almost as rewarding as his year on the court.

The McNeese State center fielder was named Southland Conference Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.

This will go hand-in-hand with his Conference Player of the Year honor. He was one of four Cowboys to be selected to the all-academic first team.

Joining him on the team are shortstop Reid Bourque, relief pitcher Cameron Foster and left fielder Julian Gonzales, a two-time selection. Pitcher Chance Stone was named to the second team.

Harden, who led the conference in batting with a .378 average, hits (85) and stolen bases (26), posted a 3.82 grade point average in mass communications/PR.

Harden, who is two hits away from setting the all-time school mark of 254, could do so next year if he returns for one final season.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Harden said recently. “I’ll wait and see what happens.”

He’s likely waiting for the July 17-19 baseball amateur draft before making a decision.

“I think Payton has a chance, but you never know,” McNeese head baseball coach Justin Hill said. “We want the best for each of them, but if that doesn’t work out, we’ll welcome him with open arms if he wants to come.”

Foster will likely be drafted as Bourque and Gonzales have exhausted their eligibility.

“You don’t get recognized for it if you don’t do everything,” Hill said. “You have to be good in the classrooms and on the pitch. That says a lot about all the guys and their future.

Gonzales, Bourque and Foster all posted GPAs of 4.0. Foster, who was named Southland’s relief pitcher of the year, earned his grades in behavioral science.

Foster led Southland in six categories, including saves (12), ERA (1.86), strikeouts (84), batting average against (.164), hits allowed (35) and authorized points (17). He ranked second in the conference in walks allowed (20) and was named a third-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Gonzales, who is heading to medical school, recorded his 4.0 in biology/pre-medicine. He started in all 57 games for the Cowboys and hit .280 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs, ranking him tied for team leader of the season.

Gonzales is also the Director of Sports Information for Colleges of America Academic All-American.

Bourque, who studied health and human performance/sports wellness management. After a slow start, Bourque hit .276 with four home runs and 25 RBIs last season. He also had 24 stolen bases.

Bourque ended his career as the Cowboys’ all-time leader in stolen bases and games played.

Stone earned a spot on the second team after posting a 3.66 GPA in human health and performance/pre-physical therapy. After having Tommy John surgery the previous year, Stone ranked third on the team with 501/3 innings pitched and went 3-3 with a 5.01 ERA. He started a team-high 15 games and made 17 appearances overall.

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