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Houston's Landon Appling slides in safely at home as McNeese State's Cameron Toole tries to handle the throw during the sixth inning Tuesday night at Cowboy Diamond. The Cougars won 11-5, handing the Cowboys their 17th loss in 20 games. (Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

Houston's Landon Appling slides in safely at home as McNeese State's Cameron Toole tries to handle the throw during the sixth inning Tuesday night at Cowboy Diamond. The Cougars won 11-5, handing the Cowboys their 17th loss in 20 games. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Cougars jump on struggling Cowboys early

Last Modified: Wednesday, May 08, 2013 10:39 AM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

In a McNeese State baseball season with an increasing number of moments vying for rock-bottom status, Tuesday night’s first inning against Houston may have taken the cake. The Cougars scored eight runs before the Cowboys could even record a single out.

“It was a disaster,” said McNeese coach Terry Burrows. “You don’t get an out? It’s unexplainable.”

Houston used the considerable first-inning cushion created against starter Jacob Williams to cruise to an 11-5 win over the woebegone Cowboys, who have lost five straight and are 3-17 in their last 20 games.

Williams (1-3) allowed six runs on five hits without retiring a Cougar.

The question now is not if McNeese can win another series, but another game, period. The Cowboys have six Southland games remaining against two teams tied for second place in the league, Oral Roberts and Southeastern Louisiana.

“This sounds super cliché, but starting this weekend, every game we play right now is our conference tournament,” Burrows said. “That’s honestly the way it is. As of today we’re in it, but at the same time we’ve got a team right behind us. We need to understand we have a chance to win these series. It’s just a matter of getting after it and staying focused.”

McNeese has overcome a bigger deficit this year than it faced on Tuesday night, beating Lamar 14-13 after spotting the Cardinals a 9-0 first-inning lead on March 24. The fight that marked that comeback effort seems to be in short supply as the Cowboys continue to stumble down the stretch.

“That was when we had a little confidence,” Burrows said. “Right now we’re playing without any confidence. That’s almost impossible to overcome right now. These kids are scuffling. Everybody is. That’s the last thing we needed.”

The biggest spark of the night for the Cowboys came with an umpire’s warning.

Reliever Tyler Parke threw a ball behind the head of Houston batter Landon Appling in the third, prompting home plate umpire Ryan Broussard to issue warnings to both benches.

Parke’s pitch certainly didn’t appear to be a coincidence — Appling had stolen a base with the Cougars up 8-0 in the top of the first. Parke went on to strike out Appling in the at-bat to end the inning, then glared at him as both teams made their way to their dugouts.

“There’s an old saying, you don’t wake a sleeping dog,” Burrows said. “Running in that situation, that’s something I don’t think I’d ever do. I don’t care if it’s the first, second or whatever. I’ve never seen anything good come out of that when stuff like that goes on. But that’s how they want to play the game? Hey, it all comes back full circle eventually.”

McNeese outplayed Houston from that point forward, outscoring the Cougars 5-3 in the final six innings.

“They did wake up, and they should have,” Burrows said. “It’s a shame it takes that to make it happen.”

Jackson Gooch had the best night for the Cowboys offense, going 2-for-3 with a three-run homer to left in the fourth.

Jake Lemoine (7-3) earned the win, pitching into the ninth before Ryan Vruggink came in for the final three outs.

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