Cowboys on cusp of title, Hunter HRs lead rout

Published 11:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2022

No need to scoreboard watch when you keep winning.

For a second consecutive day the Cowboys powered past Houston Baptist and a step closer to a Southland Conference regular-season baseball championship.

Friday it was Kade Hunter leading the way as McNeese State rolled to a 16-6 win at Husky Stadium. Just like in Thursday’s series opener, the game was shortened to seven innings by the run rule.

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Hunter hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in six to lead the Cowboys. His slam came during an eight-run fifth that put the Cowboys up 16-2, five days after he was benched for a game.

“It’s been a while since I got a hold of one like that so it felt pretty good, a weight off my shoulders,” Hunter said. “It put us in a pretty good position moving forward.”

The Cowboys (29-21, 14-9 SLC) have three paths that lead to both a regular-season title and hosting a postseason tournament. A win today in the season finale is the easiest, but any combination of one loss between New Orleans or Southeastern Louisiana will have McNeese at home Thursday for postseason play.

UNO and SLU are on the road and have two games remaining each.

“We just want to have one more run than the other guys tomorrow, that is all that matters,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “I’m watching all the scores. We know what is at stake.”

By winning Friday, McNeese knocked three teams, including HBU (18-33, 11-12), out of contention for both titles and as host sites.

“We want to sweep,” Hunter said. “We want to keep our destiny in our hands and take the conference tourney back to Lake Charles. I know we just need to handle our business and that takes care of the rest.”

McNeese scored 23 runs in the series opener Thursday and has outscored the Huskies 49-11 over the last 15 innings covering three games.

Andrew Gonzales had three hits while Braden Duhon scored three runs. Gonzales raised his team-high batting average to .423 while six Cowboys scored at least twice.

Burrell Jones (3-0) picked up the victory in relief, coming in with two out in the bottom of the first and the score tied. Andrew Sheridan got the last nine outs for a three-inning save, his first of the season.

“Burrell and Andrew, they came in and did a great job keeping them right there,” Hill said. “There are a lot of hits on that field and in these hot conditions. They saved us and set us up great for today.”

Jared Burch (1-4) took the loss.

Right-hander Ty Abraham (2-4, 5-50 ERA) will take the mound today for McNeese.

“We just want a good start from him and for him to give us what he has,” Hill said. “We are lined up pretty good after him.”

The Cowboys took the lead for good in the top of the third on back-to-back home runs by Hunter and Brad Burckel. Hunter’s homer was his of the season while Burckel followed by hitting his eighth. The shots gave McNeese a 4-2 lead.

NOTES: Hill moved to within two victories of 263, matching the number of the late Tony Robichaux for most in McNeese history.