McNeese State's Matt Williams crosses home after hitting a home run against Louisiana Tech in the second inning on Sunday. (Rick Hickman / American Press).
Last Modified: Monday, March 04, 2013 9:40 AM
With a sharply laced two-out single to center, Jackson Gooch lifted an ever-growing monkey off McNeese State’s back.
Gooch’s RBI to score Andrew Guillotte keyed a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to lead McNeese to a 6-5 win over Louisiana Tech, giving the Cowboys (6-5) the series victory and putting them over .500 for the first time this season.
“It was (our best win of the year),” said McNeese coach Terry Burrows. “For the last four or five games, hitting with runners in scoring position has been the big pink elephant in the room. It’s no secret... I’m really proud of the way they hustled all weekend, especially (Sunday).”
It appeared as if it would be the same old story when Gooch stepped into the batter’s box.
The Cowboys had left the bases loaded the previous two innings, and it looked like Guillotte might also be stranded after leading off the sixth with a hustling double and then stealing third. Tech (3-8) reliever Sam Alvis retired the next two McNeese batters without allowing a ball out of the infield, putting the pressure on Gooch.
The junior college transfer from British Columbia delivered, lining it to center and tying the game at 4.
“We should be scoring more. We’re still leaving runners on. But we got it done today,” Gooch said. “Hopefully it turns it around from here on out. Everyone was kind of waiting on that first day where we kind of broke out as an offense.”
An error and a walk put the Cowboys in a bases-loaded scenario for the third straight inning, setting up Skylar Barrentine for an unusual RBI as he drew a walk checking his swing on a 3-2 pitch. The Bulldogs attempted to appeal, but with the third-base umpire situated at second there was no realistic angle for the call to be overturned on a checked swing by a left-handed batter.
Connor Lloyd provided a more definitive RBI in the next at-bat, singling home Michael Sullivan to give the Cowboys their fourth inning of 3 or more runs this season.
Lloyd also made the most important defensive play of the game, though it wasn’t a putout or an assist.
Lloyd’s diving stop at short in the top of the sixth kept a Ryan Gebhardt hit from rolling into the outfield and scoring Kody Neel from second. One batter later pitcher Steven O’Bryant induced a fly to left to get the Cowboys out of the inning with the bases left full of Bulldogs.
“Little things like that, that’s why we win today,” Burrows said of Lloyd’s play. “These guys play hard and are competitors. We’ll get it going offensively. We just have to continue to pitch well and play hard.”
Gooch also had a key defensive play, running hard into the left-field wall to rob Bre’shon Kimbell of at least a double in the top of the seventh. The sound of Gooch hitting the wall could be heard from the press box.
“I was just thinking about making the catch, and the ball kept drifting further and further with that wind,” Gooch said. “I knew I was getting close, and Andrew (Guillotte) was yelling ‘Fence!’ but you’ve got to go up and make the play.”
A hockey player growing up, Gooch is well-versed at the art of bouncing back from a hard collision into a wall.
“It’s not quite (getting checked), but it’s tough because you’re not expecting it,” Gooch said. “Sometimes you have to wear the pain and sacrifice the body a little.”
O’Bryant (1-1) earned the win, pitching 52⁄3 innings in relief of starter Jason Gibson, who allowed four Bulldog runs in the third. O’Bryant allowed six hits, with the only run coming on a Tyler Ervine solo homer in the seventh.
Sam Peterson pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save, recovering from a walk and hit allowed with one out.
Matt Williams hit McNeese’s first home run of the season, a solo shot to right, in the second inning.