Bullpen helps Cowboys win rubber match, steal series from Demons

McNeese’s Zach Rider pitches during their Southland Conference game at Joe Miller Ballpark in Lake Charles, La., Sunday, April 22, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

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{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>McNeese </strong></span><span class="s1"><strong>4, </strong></span><span class="s1"><strong>Northwestern St. </strong></span><span class="s1"><strong>3</strong></span></p>” id=”89a3d4b4-00e8-4a78-bbbb-0f518750e6db” style-type=”fact” title=”FINAL” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

A week after showing improved hitting in a sweep of New Orleans, the McNeese State baseball team used its pitching staff to down Northwestern State in a series capped off by a 4-3 victory for the Cowboys on Sunday at Joe Miller Ballpark.

McNeese reliever Zach Rider had his longest appearance of the season by a wide margin, going 4 1/3 innings in which he gave up just one earned run in the ninth inning on four hits with four strikeouts for the Cowboys (19-21, 14-7 Southland Conference).

Getting extra innings from pitchers like Rider turned into the theme of a weekend that also saw Grant Anderson go eight innings and Aidan Anderson go five innings in Friday’s 2-1 victory, as well as a six-inning performance from reliever Cayne Ueckert in Saturday’s 9-4 defeat to the Demons (21-18, 9-9).

“That’s what a good ball club does,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “We knew going into the game Aidan was not going to be available. … Zach just came in and pitched until he couldn’t. He kept competing.”

Rider (2-1, 1.84 ERA) started the ninth inning, but exited after allowing to baserunners with the Cowboys ahead 4-2.

 

“It was a little bit longer than I’m used to,” Rider said. “But nothing really changes. I’m still out there trying to make good pitches and get people out.”

He was replaced by Peyton McLemore, who gave up an RBI double to Sam Taylor that brought the Demons within a run and put two runners in scoring position with just one out.

But McLemore settled down and struck out NSU’s top two hitters in centerfielder Kwan Adkins and David Fry to end the game and clinch the series for the Cowboys.

“That was a big moment right there,” Hill said. “Huge moment. He went into the lion’s den and got one.”

The game started unfavorably for the Cowboys as NSU had a two-out rally that included an RBI triple to right centerfield by Tyler Smith, who scored a run of his own on a wild pitch, giving the Demons a 2-0 lead.

The Cowboys got a run back in bottom of the first inning with a home run by Carson Maxell that got a bit of assist from a strong wind blowing from left to right.

They took advantage of some NSU mistakes when Dustin Duhon scored on a throwing error by shortstop Caleb Ricca before Brett Whelton walked with the bases loaded, giving McNeese a 3-2 lead.

McNeese got a bit of extra run support when Joe Provenzano reached on a fielder’s choice that was good enough to score Reid Bourque from third base.

“They had really solid starters all weekend,” said McNeese second baseman Joe Provenzano. “It was important to try to get them out of the game as soon as possible. We strung at-bats together when we needed to and found a way to score when necessary.”

NSU starting pitcher Nathan Jones (2-4, 3.56) garnered the loss after going 6 1/3 innings in which he gave up four runs, three earned on eight hits with four strikeouts and a pair of walks.

The Cowboys will take a trip to Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday for a midweek game against the in-state opponent.

McNeese 4, Northwestern St. 3

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