Last Modified: Saturday, May 18, 2013 6:45 PM
The back door is still a door.
McNeese State’s season will continue despite Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Southeastern Louisiana thanks to rival Lamar, which defeated Nicholls State 6-5 to assure that the Cowboys will be the eighth and final seed in next week’s Southland Conference tournament at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
McNeese (23-29, 10-17 SLC) will face top-seeded Sam Houston State at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“At this point you take it any way you can get it,” said McNeese coach Terry Burrows. “Obviously you’d like to win and control your own fate. The good thing is right now everyone is equal. When you get in this tournament anything goes. It should be a new breath of fresh air and an opportunity to start over clean.”
McNeese’s fate was uncertain for a solid 10 minutes following Saturday’s loss, leaving for some nervous moments.
“It’s not a really good feeling when you have to wait on another game to see if you’re getting in,” Burrows said. “You don’t want to wait on anybody else’s faults to get in … we need to move on and forget about it, because none of that matters right now.”
Jackson Gooch and Jason Gibson went up to the press box to follow the Nicholls game on the Internet, anxiously watching before relaying the good news to teammates when Colonels cleanup hitter Seth Stevens struck out on a 3-2 pitch with the tying run at second base.
Cowboys senior Tyler Klouser said he tried to savor the moment rather than worry whether he had played his last game in a McNeese uniform as he waited for the Nicholls game to go final.
“When Lamar won it was a big old sigh of relief,” Klouser said. “I thought of it as ‘I’m going to enjoy these last moments as a team together.’ We worked hard all season to become like a well-oiled machine. You just want to enjoy it. That’s the way you have to go about it. You can’t sit there thinking ‘Oh please, please.’ You just have to enjoy it.”
The Cowboys could have taken care of business themselves, but let a 3-2 lead slip away in the top of the seventh.
Left-hander Trey McGee entered the game in a jam with the bases full of Lions and one out. He got the result he wanted against SLU first baseman Jameson Fisher — a ground ball — but it went through the hole between second and first to drive in two runs. The Lions added another when Ben Fernandez scored on a Sam Roberson squeeze bunt to take a 5-3 lead.
“He did what you wanted to do, getting a ground ball against a left-hander,” Burrows said. “It just happened to go through the four-hole.”
McNeese answered with a Klouser leadoff homer in the bottom of the seventh, but Lions reliever Gabe Von Rosenburg got Cameron Toole and Andrew Guillotte to pop out on the first pitch of their at-bats.
“Their swings got a little big,” Burrows said. “In that situation you’ve got to do your job and get base hits and let the guys who can truly hit the ball out of the ballpark come up and do so.”
SLU (33-22, 16-11) added an insurance run in the eighth before closer Mason Klotz mowed McNeese down in order in the final two innings for his ninth save.
“That’s why he’s one of the better relievers, if not the top one in our conference,” Burrows said. “He gets in, doesn’t walk guys, and strikes two or three out.”
Jacob Williams (1-4) took the loss. The freshman had gotten McNeese out of a tough situation in the fourth, entering a tie game with runners at first and second with no outs and working the Cowboys out of it with no harm done. However, a trio of hits to start the seventh inning — including a swinging bunt on which Alex Marse reached base because no one was covering first — spelled the end of his day.
Jason Greenleaf (1-0) was the winner out of the bullpen.