Last Modified: Saturday, April 13, 2013 2:11 PM
History was averted by McNeese on Friday night, but defeat was not.
Connor Lloyd’s one-out single in the ninth to right-center broke up Stephen F. Austin pitcher Chase Greening’s bid at the first no-hitter in Lumberjacks history, but the Cowboys were unable to turn it into a more significant rally in a 3-0 series-opening loss.
“That’s the bottom of the barrel, getting no-hit or a perfect game,” Lloyd said. “You want to avoid that at all costs, and obviously we should have done that earlier in the game. It’s embarrassing to get no-hit. Nobody wants to get no-hit.”
Greening knew the stakes when he walked to the mound with three outs separating him from the no-no.
“I was aware of the situation,” Greening said. “Unfortunately, my pitch count was up and I kind of ran out of juice there at the end.”
Coincidentally, Greening and Lloyd were teammates with the East Texas Pumpjacks last summer.
“I gave it up to one of my buds, so that kind of eases up the pain a little bit,” Greening said.
Greening retired the first 20 Cowboys he faced before barely missing on a borderline 3-2 pitch against Jackson Gooch with two out in the seventh.
Taylor Drake drew a far more apparent walk to lead off the eighth, but Greening struck out the next three batters to end the inning. He finished with 10 strikeouts, his career-best against a Division I opponent.
“I’m disappointed in our whole approach at the plate from about the second inning on,” said McNeese coach Terry Burrows. “We didn’t compete very well from the beginning of the game.”
Greening (3-2) also shutout McNeese last year, though it was a slightly less artistic 12-hitter.
“There’s no explanation for it,” Greening said. “I guess it’s just one of those things where I happen to catch them on a good day.”
Once the Cowboys (18-14, 5-5 Southland) finally did get to Greening, things got interesting.
Chayse Marion’s ninth-inning single gave McNeese runners at the corners and brought the tying run to the plate.
However, SFA (17-16, 7-3) closer Brett Higginbotham came in to retire Gooch on a pop-up and Michael Sullivan on a game-ending strikeout for his fourth save.
It was yet another tough decision for McNeese starter Blake Ware, who flip-flopped in the rotation with freshman Bryce Kingsley. Ware (5-3) allowed two runs on five hits in eight-plus innings.
Ware is no stranger to these types of games, earning a no-decision after throwing 10 2/3 shutout innings at Lamar earlier in the season.
“Blake’s had some starts like that. That’s a tough one to lose,” Burrows said. “I’d take five hits in eight innings any day. Anybody would take that. But you tip your hat to Greening.”