McNeese State pitcher Michael Clemens delivers a pitch against Valparaiso Saturday at Cowboy Diamond. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, March 03, 2014 11:49 AMThe McNeese State baseball team once again recorded hit totals in the teens and once again left 10 runners on base Saturday against Valparaiso.
But thanks to a complete-game shutout by Michael Clemens (2-0), Saturday’s result was exponentially better than Friday’s for McNeese.
The Cowboys (6-3) used Clemens’ performance and a four-run sixth inning to notch an 8-0 win against Valparaiso (4-4) and set the stage for a rubber match with the Crusaders at 1 p.m. today.
“The story of the game was Michael Clemens,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “He faced five over the minimum, he didn’t walk anybody and he only had three three-ball counts all day. The game was a lot closer than it seemed, especially early.”
McNeese struck in the top of the first as Chayse Marion sent a ball to deep center field, allowing Jackson Gooch to score from first and give the Cowboys a 1-0 lead.
McNeese tacked on another run in the third as Matt Williams scored on a wild pitch. Williams scored again in the fifth on a single from Connor Lloyd and Marion added another run on a sacrifice fly courtesy of James Cantu to make it 4-0.
The Cowboys sealed the deal in the sixth, when they reeled off six hits to score four runs. Marion highlighted the inning with a two-RBI single that scored Sam Peterson and Andrew Guillotte.
After surrendering a hit in the first inning, Clemens went 52⁄3 innings before giving up another hit in the seventh.
“The only thing that was working for me today was my fastball,” he said. “I was able to keep it low in the zone and they rolled over on it a lot; we got a lot of ground balls. My other two pitches really weren’t working for me, so I just had to use what was working.”
After Clemens’ strong outing and Friday starter Bryce Kingsley’s recent struggles, Hill was non-committal about any changes in the rotation.
“We’re obviously counting on all the guys we’ve got,” he said. “All the games count just the same, especially when it comes to conference time. Mike’s been really good for us on Saturday. We’ll have to look at that and see what’s going to be best for us there.”
Clemens’ complete-game shutout was the first by a McNeese pitcher since Blake Ware did it March 2, 2013, against Louisiana Tech.
Despite the dominant scoreline, Marion and Hill both said there is a lot more in this McNeese team, especially offensively.
“I think we can play a lot better. That was something we discussed as a team,” Hill said. “We missed a lot of opportunities to execute. We’ve just got to make sure we’re locked in a little more offensively early. … We’ve got to give ourselves a little more room for error, especially when a guy is pitching that well.”