Southeastern's Andrew Godbold collides with McNeese catcher Cameron Toole during a rundown between third and home. Godbold was ejected from the game after the play. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:04 PMA day after one of its poorest outings of the season, McNeese State had something to prove on senior day at Cowboy Diamond. And did it ever.
Starting with the pitching tandem of Bryce Kingsley and Cory LaPeze, everything clicked for the Cowboys, who closed their 2014 home schedule with a 5-3 win over Southeastern Louisiana to avoid a sweep.
The win keeps McNeese (28-23, 17-10 Southland) ahead of SLU (31-22, 16-11) in the league standings and assures the Cowboys of a spot in the conference tournament in Conway, Ark.
“We certainly bounced back,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “A lot of times (Sunday) games are a little higher-scoring. Bryce threw really well even with traffic (on the bases). We made some really good plays in the field.”
Kingsley (5-3) earned the win, striking out seven Lions and allowing three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He was at both his shakiest and best in the first as Southeastern scored a run and then loaded the bases before he struck out Kennon Menard looking to keep the bleeding at a papercut-level.
“It was old-school Bryce,” said junior Andrew Guillote, who started in center rather than his typical spot at second base. “He’s been showing that the past couple weekends.”
The Cowboys responded positively to Kingsley’s escape act in the bottom of the frame as Guillotte, Jackson Gooch and Chayse Marion led off with back-to-back-to-back hits. Guillotte and Gooch would eventually score to give McNeese its first lead since the eighth inning Friday night.
“It’s always good to get a good start out of the gate, obviously,” Guillotte said. “But I felt today with senior day and Mother’s Day there was a little more focus. It was a special day. You can’t worry about those last two games; you have to move forward. So it was big-time to come out ahead in the first.”
The top of the order accounted for six of McNeese’s nine hits. Guillotte was 3-for-4 with two runs, Gooch 2-for-4 with two runs, and Marion 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Cleanup man Reed Gordy had McNeese’s biggest hit, a two-run opposite-field triple down the right-field line that extended the lead to 4-1 in the third.
The Lions had a pair of chances to make McNeese nervous.
SLU threatened in the fifth, cutting the margin to 4-2 as Andrew Godbold stood at third with one out. Brett Hoffman hit a tapper back to Kingsley, who threw home to catcher Cameron Toole to catch Godbold in a rundown.
Toole applied the tag about 15 feet shy of third base, where he was promptly dropped to the ground with a blow from the shoulder of SLU’s beastly 6-foot-3, 232-pound rightfielder.
Godbold was immediately ejected — all catcher collisions are banned in college baseball, let alone those 45 feet from the plate — but the Cowboys kept their cool after the potential tinderbox scenario.
“That’s the type of adversity Coach Hill coaches us through,” Guillotte said. “Something as simple as that could have changed the face of the game, but we didn’t allow it to. You want to go over there and get them. But he kept us calm, kept us in the dugout, and we turned around and finished the game.”
No one exuded more calm in the game than junior reliever LaPeze, who entered the game trying to protect a 4-3 lead with two outs and SLU runners at first and third in the sixth.
After opening with a 3-0 count against Webb Bobo, who replaced Godbold in the lineup, LaPeze battled back to get Bobo on a called third strike.
“My back’s been bothering me, so I really had to focus on getting strike one,” LaPeze said. “Those first three were really mental mistakes, not anything physical. Baseball’s all mental, and that’s what I had to do.”
From there, there was no stopping LaPeze. He allowed only one baserunner in 3 1/3 innings, striking out a career-high six to earn his second save.
The sterling performance lowered his ERA from 6.28 to 5.09.
“I’m usually a one- or two-batter guy, but today I was feeling it, so he kept me out there,” LaPeze said. “My catcher was calling good pitches, and it’s senior day. So you’ve got to do it for them. I’m supposed to be with that class, I got redshirted last year. So they’re kind of like my brothers.”
The Cowboys finish the regular season at Nicholls State in a three-game series that begins Thursday.