School of Harden knocks, leads rout with six hits, five RBIs

Published 10:00 am Friday, May 13, 2022

Decision weekend in the Southland Conference started with a knockout.

The Cowboys took over sole possession of first place Thursday afternoon, even if it was just for a few hours, by routing Houston Baptist 23-5 in seven innings in Husky Stadium.

McNeese State (28-21, 13-9 SLC) owns a half-game lead over Southeastern Louisiana, which played Nicholls State last night. The Cowboys, who own the tiebreaker with SLU, have a magic number of two with a pair of games against the Huskies remaining.

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HBU (18-32, 11-11) fell two games back. Three other teams joined the Huskies a game out of first to start the final week of the regular season.

Payton Harden returned to the lineup after missing the last two games while in concussion protocol and collected five hits. That included his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the fifth.

Harden drove in a career-high six runs and scored twice while raising his batting average to .370.

Julian Gonzales added four hits, blasting a solo shot, his eighth, in the second. He finished with three RBIs and scored five runs. Andruw Gonzales drove in four with three hits and three runs scored. Josh Leslie scored four times.

McNeese finished with 22 hits and has outscored the Huskies 33-5 over the last nine innings dating to the first SLC series of the season when the Cowboys scored 10 runs in the eighth to salvage the final game of that set.

On Thursday, the Cowboys scored seven in the third, four in the fourth and 10 in the fifth to bury HBU. Huskies starting pitcher Austin Spinney (3-4) last 21/3 innings before being lifted, but not before giving up eight runs on 10 hits.

The Cowboys raised their team batting average to .302, best in the Southland.

Lost in the bevy of runs and hits was the work of Grant Rogers (6-4). The Cowboys ace bounced back from his worst start of the season a week ago to throw 52/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits. He struck out four and walked three.

Christian Vega replaced him for the final four outs.

Logan Letney was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs for HBU. Sebastian Trinidad had two hits, including a double.

McNeese could wrap up the title today with a win and the right combination of results in other league games.

The Cowboys will start sophomore right-hander Chance Stone (3-2, 3.88 ERA). HBU will counter with senior righty Jared Burch (1-3, 4.76).