Westenburg, Duhon lead Cowboys

Published 5:23 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Justin Hill wanted to see his team hit in big moments. 

The McNeese State head coach had said he was looking for his team to display its “killer instinct”.

While it wasn’t perfect, the Cowboys responded enough Wednesday to knock off Alcorn State for the second straight day.

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Conner Westenburg drove in four runs on four hits, and Braden Duhon knocked in three more on his three safeties as McNeese State toppled the Braves 11-4 in an afternoon affair at Joe Miller Ballpark.

“That was huge,” Duhon said of the early offense. “We have been struggling with that, trying to do too much.

“This got us going and we have to just pass the bat along.”

The victory improved the Cowboys to 15-12 on the season while the Braves fell to 2-20.

Westenburg led the charge with his four hits, including two doubles and a triple. The center fielder also scored two runs while making two key plays on defense.

He saved a run with a diving grab in the fifth and tracked down a long fly ball at the wall with a runner on base in the eighth.

Duhon started things off for the Cowboys with a two-out, two-run single in the first that gave McNeese the lead for good. The Cowboys scored four in the first and two more in the second to take complete control of the game. Wednesday completed a sweep of the Braves, as McNeese won the opener Tuesday night 9-7.

“We knew that kind of game,” said Hill. “We knew we would need to score some runs. Big days for Conner and Braden helped get us started.”

Brock Barthelemy came in and threw 3⅓ innings of scoreless relief, striking out a season-high four along the way. That gave him his second win of the season with no defeats.

“That is really big for him,” Hill said. “Brock didn’t get out to the start he wanted this year but this will help. We knew he had it in him. He did it for us last year.”

Alcorn starter Kewan Braziel (0-6) took the. McNeese starter Evan Maldonado also had a big strike-out day, fanning four, a career-high, in just eight outs.

Cooper Hext added two hits and scored two runs as McNeese finished with 14 hits. Four Cowboys were hit by pitches as well, adding to the three that were plunked Tuesday.

McNeese catcher Grant Mangrum, who had two hits on Tuesday, finished the short series 3-for-5. 

The Cowboys finished strong, scoring five runs in their last three at-bats. They have struggled to add on runs early in the season.

“We get too comfortable sometimes,” said Duhon. “We have to keep our foot on the gas.”

The Cowboys will try to do that this weekend when they hit the road while returning to Southland Conference action. McNeese will be in Beaumont, Texas for a three-game series against league-leading Lamar. 

The Cardinals are 3-0 in the league and 25-3 overall and are coming off a sweep of then No. 25 Oklahoma last weekend. Lamar catcher Zak Skinner was named the SLC’s Hitter of the Week on Monday for his work in that series.