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Connor Lloyd slides in safely to scores the Cowboys' first run of the game on a tag-up pop fly in the bottom of the second. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Connor Lloyd slides in safely to scores the Cowboys' first run of the game on a tag-up pop fly in the bottom of the second. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Sam Houston State delivers message

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 4:36 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same principle clearly applies to climbing atop the Southland Conference.

It was only an early season midweek game at Cowboy Diamond Tuesday night, and it didn’t count in the league standings. But Sam Houston State showed why it’s considered the cream of the Southland crop with an 18-6 blowout of McNeese State that gave the Cowboys (3-1) their first loss of the season.

“I told the guys earlier it really doesn’t matter what it happens tonight because it’s just one game,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “But the bottom line is, they’re the class of our league. They’ve been in regionals five of the last seven years. That’s one of the goals of where we want to be. We’re working on that.”

A nuclear-powered eight-run sixth inning torpedoed the Cowboys, who went into the frame with a 4-2 lead. The Bearkats (5-0) batted around before recording an out, and that was via sacrifice bunt.

Thirteen Bearkats came to the plate, accounting for eight hits — three of them doubles — that kept the painful carousel moving against four McNeese pitchers.

In retrospect, Hill said he realized he probably got all he could out of starter Lucas Quary (1-1), who allowed two runs in five innings before failing to get a man out in the sixth. Collin Kober finally stopped the fire after Steven O’Bryant and Tyler Erickson were unable to end the inning.

“I feel like I was a lot responsible for that,” Hill said. “I felt like that matchup was good with Lucas, but my gut was feeling he was a little tired to execute pitches the way he could and I didn’t pull the trigger.”

Big innings are not unusual behavior for Sam Houston, especially in the sixth. The Bearkats have scored no fewer than five runs in the sixth inning of their last three games.

“It might be coincidental right now,” said Sam Houston coach David Pierce. “They are making some adjustments. Fortunately we’re scoring some runs, and it happens to be in the sixth inning. I can’t explain that.”

The Bearkats did the rest of their damage in garbage time, batting around again for six runs in the top of the ninth to provide a form of water torture to the hearty few who hadn’t already hit the exits.

The good news for McNeese?

Tuesday’s game has no bearing on the conference standings, giving the Cowboys until the end-of-May conference tournament to figure out how play at a comparable level as the Bearkats.

“I don’t think the game was as ugly as it seemed, because it was right there in the sixth,” Hill said. “I think our guys realize that. It’s a matter of being able to execute when it happens and doing the little things better.”

For the first half of the game, McNeese looked up to the task.

The Cowboys scratched out four runs any way they could in the first three innings.

Connor Lloyd scored the first run on a Matt Gallier sacrifice fly in the second, and then Clay Payne drove Reed Gordy home with the fourth straight hit to start his college career.

McNeese added two more in the third when James Cantu doubled home Andrew Guillotte, then scored after consecutive ground outs to the right side of the infield.

Every Bearkats starter finished with at least one RBI.

Shortstop Corey Toups led the way with five of them thanks to a two-run double in the sixth and a three-run homer in the ninth. It was the first home run of the season at Cowboy Diamond.

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