McNeese State's Lucas Quary is congratulated after driving in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Texas-Arlington Saturday at Cowboy Diamond. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 12:05 PMFollowing Friday night-into-Saturday morning’s 19-inning loss to Texas-Arlington, McNeese State coach Justin Hill had two primary hopes — a good Saturday afternoon start from Michael Clemens, and a nine-inning game.
The Cowboys got both of those wishes by the skin of their teeth as Clemens gutted through seven innings and Lucas Quary ended any extra-inning flashbacks with his walk-off ninth-inning single for a 6-5 win over the Mavericks.
“That’s a game where had our guys had memories of last night or dragged from last night, they wouldn’t have been able to come back,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “… I was really proud of how our guys kept fighting back. The thing is there’s no speech or anything you can do. It’s got to come internally.”
Quary rapped a one-out single to left to drive home Jackson Gooch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, triggering a celebration in roughly the same spot of the infield where Hill and Andrew Guillotte had disputed the controversial final out call of a 9-8 Game 1 loss some 15 minutes after midnight.
“It felt pretty good to be able to bounce back and get a win,” Quary said. “Just to get a win in any way is big after what we went through (Friday) night.”
Clemens did not get the win, but the Cowboys (5-2) would not have gotten one without him despite a pitching line that hardly jumps out of the stat book. The junior righty allowed five runs on 13 hits and walked off the mound with McNeese facing a 5-3 deficit after his final pitch.
But merely making it to that point was imperative for a team that had only three viable bullpen options after Friday’s marathon.
“I tried to give everything I could for my team and go as far as I could,” Clemens said. “I knew we were short on arms, so I was happy to be able to give it my all even though it wasn’t my best stuff.”
It certainly didn’t look possible when the Mavericks (1-5) touched up Clemens for three runs on five hits in the top of the first.
The second didn’t start off much better as UTA opened the inning with a lead-off homer and followed it with a one-out double.
But, from that point forward, Clemens was in control, only getting beat on a JM Twichell solo home run in the fifth.
“I probably gave myself a little extra pressure (early) just because (the situation),” Clemens said. “The second time through (the order) I settled down.”
The Cowboys chipped away with single runs in the first, second and sixth before taking advantage of a UTA pitching change in the seventh.
Mavericks coach Darin Thomas played the percentages when he lifted starter Jess Amedee with a runner on first and two outs, bringing in Keegan Hucul for a lefty-lefty matchup against Chayse Marion.
That schematic advantage went out the window when Hucul plunked Marion and then allowed back-to-back RBI singles to Connor Lloyd and Matt Williams before exiting, stage left.
Southpaw Tyler Erickson (2-0) earned the win, allowing a hit around two intentional walks in 1 2/3 innings.
“Tyler Erickson was huge,” Hill said. “We brought him into a tough spot. We told him he had to face right-handers even though that’s not the ideal thing to do in a dream situation. But he was up to the task.”
Jacob Moreland allowed Quary’s winning single, but Chad Nack (0-1) took the loss by allowing the winning runner to reach base in the form of Gooch’s lead-off single.