Duplechain saves the day for McNeese

Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press

It didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was exactly what the Cowboys needed.

Behind a six-run third, McNeese State rallied from an early deficit to knock off Incarnate Word in the first of a four-game Southland Conference series Friday at Joe Miller Ballpark.

In a game moved up to the afternoon to avoid any potential rain problems later, the Cowboys broke a three-game losing streak, toppling the Cardinals 10-6.

“Just like we drew it up,” McNeese head coach Justin Hill joked.

Three Cowboys pitchers combined to walk nine in the game, which lasted 3 hours, 21 minutes.

“That is the frustrating part,” Hill said. “We gave them too many gifts from the mound. We are better than that.”

But the Cowboys (15-14, 9-7) found a closer for the day in Isaac Duplechain, who threw McNeese out of trouble. Entering with runners on first and second and nobody out in the eighth, Duplechain got the next three hitters then struck out the side in the ninth, earning his first save in the process.

“My mind-set was to go in there and do what I needed to do,” Duplechain said. “I just wanted to pound the zone.”

That gave reliever Ty Abraham (2-0) the victory. Isaiah Zavala (3-2) took the loss, allowing eight runs, all earned, in 22⁄3 innings.

McNeese chased Zavala in the third, scoring six times on four doubles. Payton Harden had the big shot, driving in a pair. Julian Gonzales also doubled home a run in the inning after tripling in the second.

“We wanted to get on them right away after they scored,” Gonzales said. “We have to find a way to keep our offense consistent all weekend, and get the big hits.”

Taylor Darden’s three-run homer in the fifth helped close the lead to 8-5. It also ended the day for McNeese starter Bryson Hudgens. Abraham then gave up another run to make it 8-6 after five.

The Cowboys got a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on Nate Fisbeck’s two-run single to left.

McNeese tied the score in the second with a combination of power and a trick play. Reid Bourque’s roller to first plated Gonzales, whose triple off the wall in right, missing a home run by a foot.

Two outs later, Peyton Johnson stole home on the back end of an attempted double steal. Harden, who walked off first to start the play, beat a tag as Johnson scored.

“Our offense bailed us out tonight,” Hill said. “You got to fight through some ugly at times.”

UIW (12-12, 8-9) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first off Hudgens. It was the first runs scored off the right-hander this season.””

Julian Gonzales hits a triple off the right-field wall in the second inning during a Southland Conference game Friday at Joe Miller Ballpark.

Rick Hickman / American Press

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