Hext provides grand finale

Published 4:58 pm Sunday, April 28, 2024

Cooper Hext changed the course of the Cowboys’ next three weekends with one mighty swing.

And he did it in grand style Sunday.

Hext hit his second home run of the day with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give McNeese State a crucial 9-5 victory over Southeastern at Joe Miller Ballpark.

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With the win, McNeese (21-21, 5-10) is two games up on the Lions in the chase for the final spot in the Southland postseason tournament by way of a tiebreaker with nine games remaining.

The Lions (22-21, 4-11) will host the tournament in Hammond in May.

“I walked up with a lot of confidence,” said Hext. “I just wanted to get it in the air, but it was much better when it went out.

“I didn’t know what to think when I saw it go out, I was just happy we won.”

Making that much better for the senior from DeQuincy was doing it in front of family and friends.

“That makes it so much more fun,” said Hext. “I had a lot of people here rooting for us.”

Hext had a monster day, hitting a three-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth. He finished with a career-high seven runs batted in with the two home runs giving him five on the season.

He raised his average to .316 in the process as well.

“We needed the win for sure, but we still have to keep going,” said Hext. 

The winning runs came after McNeese gave up the lead with a run in the top of the night on Parker Coley’s RBI single that evened the score at 5-5. The Cowboys were able to get out of more trouble by ending the inning with a double play.
“That was big there,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “Only giving up one run kept it tied.”

Elliot Hebert’s 395-foot homer into the teeth of a stiff wind to right-center gave the Cowboys a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. However, the usually reliable Cameron LeJeune could not hold the lead. 

Lejeune did work the last two innings, giving up the lead twice, but managed to limit the damage enough to earn the win and improve to 5-2. Aiden Vosburg (0-4) took the loss for the Lions.

Ty Abraham was the big Cowboy star on the mound, going 3⅔ innings and allowing just two hits and no runs after McNeese had fallen behind 3-0 through the first four.

“Abraham, he’s the guy who doesn’t get any credit but he gave us a chance to win,” said Hill.

Hext’s first home run was also into the wind. He hit a 435-foot shot to right-center, scoring three runs and tying the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth.

“That one felt really good,” said Hext. 

TJ Salvaggio and Jake Haze each had three hits for the Lions while Chase Keeton had a pair of doubles for McNeese, including one to lead off the ninth.

“It wasn’t how you draw it up,” said Hill. “You would like for it to be a little easier.

“Our guys show up and fight. They give it what they can. It hasn’t always worked out the way we want, but we keep coming back.”

Because of that, McNees is back in the postseason hunt. Actually, the Cowboys are a half-game ahead of HCU (15-28, 6-12) for seventh place. Those two teams will meet in two weeks in Lake Charles.