Conner Westenburg hits second three-run homer in as many days

Published 2:56 pm Monday, February 26, 2024

Conner Westenburg started the new week the way he finished the last, red hot.

The junior outfielder, who moved up to the leadoff spot just nine days ago, hit his second three-run homer in as many days to lead the Cowboys to their fourth straight victory Monday at Joe Miller Ballpark.

Westenburg hit a towering shot to left in the bottom of the third as McNeese State swept New Mexico State in a four-game series. The 6-5 victory evened the Cowboys’ record to 4-4 in the early going while the Aggies fell to 2-6.

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Westenburg, who was named the Southland Conference’s Hitter of the Week during the game, finished the series 9-for-17 (.529) with his first two homers of the season and 10 runs batted in. 

On the homestand, which included last Tuesday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette, he is 12-for-22 (.545) with six doubles. Westenburg has raised his season average to .438.

“It feels good to get the sweep,” said Westenburg. “We are just taking it one game at a time.”

Westenburg’s hot streak has impressed his coach, Justin Hill.

“He’s so dynamic,” said Hill. “He’s seeing the ball really well. He brings a lot of energy to the team.”

Westenburg sure got the Aggies’ attention. They walked him internationally during the Cowboys’ two-run fourth that gave them a 5-1 lead. 

“I don’t think that has ever happened to me before,” Westenburg said of the free intentional pass.

He was caught while trying to steal home to end the inning. 

Looking to avoid the sweep, the Aggies took the lead quickly when Keith Jones led the game off with his second home run of the season. Jones drove in another run in the fifth with an RBI single to right. 

The Aggies tied the game in the sixth on a three-run homer of their own. Sheehan O’Connor hit his first of the year off McNeese reliever Mott Marcus after NMSU had cut the lead to 5-2 with a run in the fifth. O’Connor had three hits to lead the Aggies.

McNeese bounced right back thanks in large part to Westenburg’s legs. He raced all the way home from first with what proved to be the winning run on Cooper Hext’s single to center. 

When the throw went into second from the outfield, Westenburg kept on running and scored standing up, easily beating the relay home. 

That gave Mott his first McNeese win. Kainin Morrow worked the ninth to earn his first save. Saul Soto (1-1) took the loss for New Mexico State.

Alexis Gravel made the most of his first start as a Cowboy. The lefty allowed two runs on five hits over the first five innings. He finished with a career-high eight strikeouts and walked just one.
“(Alexis) has some swing-and-miss stuff,” said Hill. “He threw strikes and attacked the zone.”

Braden Duhon and Easton Dowell each went 3-for-4 for the Cowboys while Hext finished with two hits and two RBIs. McNeese finished with a season-high 12 hits.

It was a quick bounce-back for the Cowboys, who dropped their first four games, the opening three on the road at No. 8 Texas A&M.

“After a tough start the guys responded well,” said Hill. “We got some big hits. We are starting to learn more about this team.”

The Cowboys won three of the four games over the Aggies by one run, scoring late in those wins to either rally from behind or break a tie.

“Guys are resilient,” said Hill. “We are learning that might be in this team’s DNA.”

McNeese will continue its homestand Wednesday night when undefeated Louisiana Tech (7-0) comes to town for a 6 p.m. game. 

Hill said he would decide on a starter for the game likely on Tuesday.