Louisiana-Lafayette's Jace Conrad applies the tag on McNeese State's Clay Payne attempting to steal second base in the bottom of the fourth inning Wednesday night at Cowboy Diamond. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, April 10, 2014 1:38 PMIf you give the No. 1 team in the country a little, it will take a lot. And multiple littles exploded in McNeese State’s face Wednesday night in a 14-8 Louisiana-Lafayette win at Cowboy Diamond.
It was the second consecutive late-inning meltdown for the McNeese bullpen in a midweek game against a nationally ranked opponent.
Last week No. 20 LSU did the damage with eight runs in the sixth and seventh innings to erase a one-run Cowboys lead.
On Wednesday, it was a six-run eighth inning by the Cajuns (31-4) that annihilated McNeese’s 8-7 advantage and sent many in the crowd of 1,919 home.
But while last week’s result felt more like the opponent took something from McNeese, Wednesday’s came with the sense the Cowboys (19-12) gave something away.
Three Cajuns were walked and another hit by a pitch during the eighth-inning blowup.
“We just gave them too many opportunities. That was the biggest thing,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “They took advantage of those. It was different from the game last week. We gave a good offensive club seven walks and two hit-by-pitches. You can’t beat anybody doing that.”
The crucial swing was a lined shot off the bat of Cajuns shortstop and Kinder native Blake Trahan.
Trahan lasered one toward McNeese third baseman Matt Gallier, who reached up to get a piece of leather on the ball but could not squeeze his glove quickly enough for the catch. The potential inning-ending double play instead carried into shallow left and became a two-run double that put ULL up 10-8.
“I definitely had a shot at it,” Gallier said. “It was hit very hard, but in hindsight I should have had it. It was a tough play. It goes to two outs or we double them off if I make the play. But baseball’s definitely a game of inches and a game of momentum.”
The air rapidly escaped from McNeese’s balloon shortly thereafter as three more ULL runs plated in the three-pitcher inning.
After countering ULL’s punches all game, the Cowboys stayed on the canvas this time as only Jackson Gooch managed a hit in the final two innings.
“For the most part fans saw two teams going after it,” Hill said. “They just had a bigger knock-out punch than we did.”
It was a dead-even match for seven innings, and the Cowboys looked to be in good shape when a Matt Williams squeeze bunt plated Gooch to put McNeese up 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh.
But the Cowboys could not finish the job they started.
“We just didn’t play the game as well as we needed to tonight,” Hill said. “I’m not disappointed in the effort. But when you don’t execute and another team takes advantage — frustration’s not the right word. But it’s just baseball. The message is we’ve got to play better baseball to put ourselves in situations to win.”
McNeese didn’t just give the Cajuns freebies in the eighth.
ULL scored twice on wild pitches by starter Michael Desabrais, and catcher Michael Strentz clubbed a three-run homer on the first strike thrown by Desabrais in a nine-pitch second-inning sequence.
But the Cowboys overcame their early miscues, with the biggest boosts coming on a two-run Connor Lloyd double in the third and a two-run homer by Gallier that gave McNeese a temporary 7-6 lead in the sixth.
“I guess that’s why they’re the No. 1 team in the country. They’re able to (come back) from that,” Gallier said. “They’re putting a great game of baseball together. We’re capable of throwing punches back, so that’s what we’ll continue to work on.”
Greg Milhorn (3-1) picked up the win while Cole Prejean (3-2) took the loss.