McNeese State's Nick Eubanks celebrates with Matt Williams as he returns to the dugout after scoring against Texas-Arlington Sunday. (Pankaj Khadka / American Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, May 13, 2012 7:48 PM
Now that’s how you do a Senior Day.
Seth Granger took the last pitch he’ll ever see at Cowboy Diamond over the right-field wall and off the roof of the McNeese track complex, giving the Cowboys a dramatic 2-1, 10-inning win over Texas-Arlington to complete a doubleheader and series sweep of the Mavericks on Sunday.
The senior from Iowa was mobbed by a disbelieving pack of teammates after his walk-off shot.
“It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” said coach Terry Burrows. “He’s one of my favorite kids I’ve ever coached. What a great way to go out in his last swing at this park. I couldn’t be happier for Seth and this whole team right now.”
McNeese won the first game by the same 2-1 margin, though that one didn’t require extra innings.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Granger said. “When I got to the ballpark, I said I wanted to sweep these guys. And we did it. It was a great team win. We played hard all 19 innings.”
While Granger was hoping for the sweep in his final home appearance, he didn’t conceive that he would play the role of primary hero.
“I wanted to try to end it, and I did. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that in college or high school or anything,” Granger said. “I always think about it happening, and I finally got the pitch (a change-up) and the chance to do it.”
Granger wouldn’t have been able to play the hero had he not been moved into the leadoff spot at the beginning of the series, a move Burrows said was suggested by assistant coach Bubbs Merrill.
Both wins also would have been impossible without stellar starting pitching.
Cowboy starters Tyler McDonald and Trey Brown threw eight innings each, allowing only one run apiece.
McDonald (4-3) picked up the win in Game 1 and Michael Clemens pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
Granger was one of the offensive heroes in that game thanks in part to atmospheric conditions far out of his control. UTA right fielder Preston Beck lost Granger’s deep eighth-inning fly ball in the sun, allowing Granger to motor to third with a leadoff triple.
Three batters later, Collin Todd drove him home with a two-out single.
“Hopefully we’re starting to get some breaks like that,” Burrows said. “We’ve been on the short end of breaks too many times around here.”
Brown took a no-decision in the nightcap, but it is possible that he pitched even better than McDonald in his first appearance since April 13 due to an academic suspension.
“There’s been a lot of study hall,” Brown said of his past month.
Brown said he was nervous early as he tried to redeem himself to his teammates, but soon found his groove. He retired 18 straight batters from the second through the seventh.
“I had some nerves going. My control wasn’t that good,” Brown said. “After the second inning I felt like I could put the ball where I wanted to and started cruising after that. I felt like I really zoned in about the third inning.”
Tyler Parke (1-1) earned the win in relief.
UTA reliever Aaron Boydston (1-3) lived up to his number, 13, in losing both games.
The Cowboys entered the series simply hoping to solidify a spot in the Southland Conference tournament. Improbably, they’ll go into the last regular-season series at Southeastern Louisiana with a chance to be one of the top four seeds.
McNeese (22-16, 16-14 SLC) owns the tiebreaker against UTA (29-23, 16-14) for the No. 4 seed and is a game behind Texas State for the third seed.
The Cowboys’ magic number for clinching a tournament berth is 1, with either another win or a loss by Northwestern State in the final three games doing the trick.