Bad start sinks Cowboys in home opener

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

One bad inning can ruin an otherwise good night.

For the Cowboys, that inning came right off the bat Tuesday.

Rival Louisiana-Lafayette scored eight times before McNeese State even came to bat at Joe Miller Ballpark, ruining the home opener.

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That proved more than enough as the Cajuns rolled to an 11-3 victory. Lafayette improved to 3-1 in the early going while McNeese fell to 0-4.

Trey LaFleur started and ended the Lafayette rally by singling to lead off the game. His three-run, inside-the-park homer ended the early scoring 24 minutes later.

It was LaFleur’s second home run of the season.

All the runs came off Cowboy starter Caleb Strmiska, with only two of them being earned. Strmiska contributed to his own mess with a throwing error that opened the floodgate.

“We gave them extra outs in that first inning,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “They are too good of a team to do that. It got away from us there.”

ULL finished with 14 hits and stole seven bases in eight attempts.

“As a unit, we got to fix some things,” said Hill.

McNeese scored two of its runs in the fourth on RBI hits from Connor Schneider and Connor Westenburg. Cooper Hext started the inning off with a double. They added another in the ninth.

Westenburg moved up to the leadoff spot by Hill Sunday and responded with a pair of hits to raise his average to .412.

The Cowboys wasted chances to score in both the second and third, getting a leadoff triple by Grant Mangrum first. He was stranded there despite McNeese loading the bases with two out.

Westenburg’s first double of the night started the third, but he was also stranded. McNeese finished with a season-high nine hits but left 13 runners on base.

“We’re starting to get some traffic on the bases,” said Hill. “The situational hitting wasn’t very good. We got to get better at that.”

Josh Alexander hits his first home run of the season to lead off the eighth for the Cajuns, who went on to score three rungs in the frame.

LeFleur finished the night 3-for-4, raising his batting average to .667 for the Cajuns.

Kaimin Morrow threw 4⅓ innings of relief for the Cowboys, not allowing a run. It was his second good outing of the season.

McNeese will be at home to open a wrap-around four-game series with New Mexico State on Friday that will conclude Monday.