McNeese's Clay Payne fouls a pitch off against Northwestern State starter Austin Tanner in Sunday's 4-0 loss. Tanner had a complete-game shutout. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 1:41 PMIf pitchers with dominant fastballs are flamethrowers, then Northwestern State freshman lefty Austin Tanner’s arm is a Bic lighter.
But it doesn’t matter how outs are recorded so long as you get them, which is why Tanner’s array of curveballs and “heat” that topped out in the low-80s was enough to record a complete-game shutout as the Demons downed McNeese 4-0 in the rubber game of their Southland Conference series.
It’s the first conference series the Cowboys (20-14, 10-5) have lost this season. With the halfway point of the league schedule approaching next week, McNeese is tied with Northwestern (21-14, 10-5) and Nicholls (19-19, 10-5) for first place.
“The disappointment was we kept making some of the same mistakes over and over again,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “We have to remember who we are and just play better. We really did get outplayed most of the weekend. The fact we did get a game out of the weekend is really important for us.”
The Cowboys could not get a bead on Tanner, who scattered eight hits in his first career complete game. In fact, it was the first time Tanner (1-1) has ever made it past the fifth inning.
“I didn’t make an adjustment personally, and I think as a team we didn’t make many adjustments,” said first baseman Chayse Marion, who was 0-for-3. “Lots of curveballs and off-speed stuff. He was tough. But we have to do a better job of making an adjustment earlier.”
McNeese’s inablity to make anything happen offensively cost starter Bryce Kingsley a shot at a win in his best start of the season. Kingsley (3-3) allowed one run on six hits in seven innings. The lone pock mark came in the fifth when Edwin Gomez singled home Joel Atkinson from second. Atkinson had reached on a one-out double.
“Bryce threw really, really well,” Hill said. “He kept things small. He did a really good job.”
Northwestern’s only other scoring threat was pounced on by Nathan Lyons in the eighth.
McNeese intentionally walked Northwestern’s hottest hitter, Chase Daughdrill, with one out to both set up the double play and take the bat out of his hands.
Lyons responded by depositing Steven O’Bryant’s pitch over the left-field wall for his first homer of the year.
“We had the right situation,” Hill said. “It didn’t work out there.”
McNeese’s best scoring opportunities came in the sixth and eighth.
The Cowboys had men at the corners with two outs in the sixth, but Tanner got Marion to hit a grounder to Atkinson, who stepped on second for the inning-ending force out.
The comeback Cowboys who rallied from a 10-5 deficit in the final two innings on Saturday appeared to be making their return in the bottom of the eighth.
Clay Payne and Andrew Guillotte singled around a Sam Peterson fly out to get McNeese in position for another rally. But Tanner got pinch-hitter Hans Ask to hit a one-hopper to Daughdrill at third, setting the inning-ending double play into motion.
“I think maybe there’s a feeling you’re invincible because you’ve had comebacks and seen miraculous things,” Hill said. “And we expect to. But you can’t wait. The law of averages works against you with that.”