(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 10:19 PM
For the second time in three years, McNeese State’s postseason fate will hinge upon the final day of the regular season.
Thanks to freshman pitcher Bryce Kingsley, the Cowboys have at least regained control of their own destiny.
Kingsley threw a 122-pitch complete game to lead McNeese to a 3-1 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Friday night at Cowboy Diamond.
“I was a little nervous before this game. More so than normal,” said McNeese coach Terry Burrows. “Then you watch Bryce pitch the whole game and it kind of takes the edge off when he’s throwing strikes like he does. These kids know what’s on the line and their heart’s in it and their head’s in it.”
Combined with Nicholls State’s 5-4 loss at Lamar, McNeese is in the driver’s seat to reach next week’s Southland Conference tournament. The Cowboys are in with either a win or a Colonels loss in today’s season finale. Senior left-hander Jason Gibson (3-1, 4.94 ERA) will get the start for McNeese against fellow southpaw Jordan Hymel (5-3, 3.94) at 1 p.m.
“We know what (Gibson’s) capable of doing, and we’ve got to play our best,” Burrows said. “The bottom line is: we’ve got to win.
Kingsley (8-5) pitched like a veteran Friday night to help keep McNeese alive. He scattered eight hits and struck out three, including a game-ending swing-and-miss by Lions second baseman Alex Marse.
“I just went out there with the same mentality as a normal game. Nothing changed,” Kingsley said. “I’ve been on a good streak lately so I went in with confidence. I knew a lot was on the line, but you’ve got to play the game right.”
Burrows said Kingsley’s big-game experience at Barbe High School prepared him for games like this at the college level.
“That’s a credit to Coach (Glenn) Cecchini,” Burrows said. “(Bryce) has been there and done it before.”
Kingsley looked like he might run out of gas in the eighth when he allowed back-to-back Lions to reach on a one-out walk and base hit. But he got Sam Roberson to line out to right, and first baseman Chayse Marion dove to tag the bag on a bang-bang Harry Slade chopper to end the inning.
“After that long eighth I didn’t know what (Burrows) was going to do,” Kingsley said. “He asked me how I was doing, told me I had the next inning, and I was ready to go from then.”
Aaron Haag reached on a one-out single in the ninth before Kingsley retired Josh Watkins on a fly to center, then reared back to strike out Marse.
“I don’t know if that was more gas or adrenaline,” Kingsley said of his final pitch. “You can’t describe the feeling. There’s so much on the line. It was probably more adrenaline than gas, for sure.”
Kingsley got the run support he needed in the bottom of the fifth with some help from Jackson Gooch and the SLU defense.
Gooch came through with a two-out single to center, and Lions center fielder Slade whiffed as he tried to pick the ball up and throw home for a play at the plate. Gooch was credited with one RBI as Andrew Guillotte scored from second, while Marion came home all the way from first after the misplay.
“They were coming in on me all night with fastballs, which they got me to pop out on (Thursday night) in the ninth,” Gooch said. “I stayed in on it and was able to drive it through the middle, and luckily the center fielder was thinking about throwing the guy out before he got the ball and it cost them.”
Prior to Gooch’s hit the Cowboys were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Their only other run came on a solo homer by Marion in the first.
“For me and a lot of the guys, it’s not time to go home yet,” Gooch said. “We’ve kind of turned it around since that big losing streak and the attitude’s changed. We think we can be a threat going to the conference tournament if we can push through.”
Freshman Tate Scioneaux (6-3) was the loser for SLU, allowing two earned runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.