Dion blanks Panthers in home debut, strikes out record 19 batters
Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press
Welcome back, Will Dion.
Pitching like he did as a freshman in 2019, the McNeese State lefty showed the home folks what an ace pitcher looks like, even if it is only the second week of the season.
Dion was near perfect Friday night, as the Cowboys toppled Prairie View A&M 5-0 at Joe Miller Ballpark in the first of a four-game series.
Dion (1-1) was dominant from the start, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out a school-record 19 as he went the distance.
McNeese improved to 1-3 and 43-1 all-time against the Panthers.
“I felt pretty good right from the start,” Dion said. “I’m all about getting the first strike.”
Of his first 39 pitches, 34 were strikes, setting the stage for his dominance. He also spent little time on the mound as his first six innings took a total of 23 minutes.
“We won the time of possession,” McNeese head coach Justin Hill said. “That’s a great stat to have.”
Dion was the story as he struck out eight of the first 12 batters he faced. But he was just as impressive at the finish. After two hits with one out in the ninth, assistant Cowboys coach Peyton McLemore went to the mound.
“I asked him what he was doing out here,” Dion said. “He is a good friend of mine and I told him to walk back to the dugout I got this.
“No doubt I was not coming out.”
While Dion was the main story, he benefited from a couple of nice defensive plays when the Panthers managed to make contact.
“Will was really something tonight,” Hill said. “He will get a lot of the attention, as he should, but this was also a team win. We played a good game, especially on defense.”
Clayton Rasbeary provided more than enough offense for Dion, doubling, tripling and driving in three runs. His shot in the fifth hit high off the wall in center just right of the 400-foot sign. It missed being a home run by inches.
“I thought it hit off the wall in back and bounced back in,” Rasbeary said. “I was bargaining with the umpire.”
After a short conversation the umpires left Rasbeary on third.
“It doesn’t matter, we got the runs,” Rasbeary said.
His shot drove in a pair and gave the Cowboys a 3-0 lead. Rasbeary, who doubled in the first, drove in Kade Morris with a sacrifice fly in the third. Triples by Brett Whelton and Payton Harden in the sixth scored two runs and put the game away.
“We were slow to get start out the game but we got it going,” Rasbeary said. “When Will is on the mound we don’t need to score a lot.”
As for the Cowboys winning on a field still under construction from the two hurricanes last year, Raspberry said he simply happy to be part of the evening.
“Tonight was huge for the city and for our team,” he said.