Gaconi shuts out Sam Houston State, gives Southeastern first place alone in Southland

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HAMMOND, La. – Corey Gaconi tossed his second complete-game shutout against Sam Houston State in as many seasons, scattering four hits as Southeastern Louisiana picked up a 3-0 win Friday over the Bearkats in Southland Conference action at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.

Southeastern (28-22, 17-8 Southland) moves into sole possession of first place in the conference, moving one game in front of the Bearkats (27-20, 16-9 Southland) with five conference games remaining. With the win, the Lions are the first team to officially clinch a spot in the upcoming 2019 Southland Conference Tournament in Sugar Land, Texas.

Fans were treated to a pitchers’ duel befitting of two first-place teams on a Friday night. Sam Houston State starting pitcher Hayden Wesneski (7-3) retired the first 10 batters he faced in the game and, after allowing a single to open up the game, Gaconi retired 11 consecutive hitters.

The Bearkats threatened first. Hunter Hearn snapped Gaconi’s consecutive-batter streak in the fourth inning with a two-out single to left field. Clayton Harp followed with a double down the right-field line, putting a pair of runners in scoring position. Gaconi (7-2) induced a comebacker out of Sam Houston State designated hitter Gavin Johnson to end the inning and start another double-digit streak.

While Gaconi was busy retired the next 10 batters, the Lions finally broke through against Wesneski in the sixth. Bryce Steckler lined a one-out single to center field and scored on Preston Faulkner’s two-out, two-run home run off the left-field foul pole. The blast was the team-leading ninth of the season for the sophomore from Denham Springs, Louisiana.

In the seventh, Nathan Pilutti was hit by a one-out pitch. He scored easily from first base on Brennan Breaud’s hit-and-run single to left field after the Bearkat’s Jordan Rogers overran the ball.

Rogers, looking to atone for his mistake, led off the eighth with a single to right, snapping Gaconi’s string of 10-straight batters retired. The senior right-hander from Metairie, Louisiana, struck out the next batter and then got a double-play ground ball off the bat of Riley McKnight to end the inning.

Gaconi retired the side in order in the ninth for his second complete game of the season. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. Gaconi extended his scoreless inning streak against Sam Houston State to 18.2 consecutive, dating back to a matchup in the 2017 Southland Conference Tournament.

Wesneski, who matched up with Gaconi for the third consecutive time, suffered the loss. The right-hander also tossed a complete game, allowing three runs – two earned – on four hits. The Southland leader in strikeouts walked one, hit one batter and struck out nine.

Gaconi ties former major league Jeff Williams (1992-96) for ninth in career wins (21) and bypasses Williams into sixth place in career innings pitched (289.0).

With excessive rain and lightning in the afternoon forecast, Southeastern has postponed Saturday’s game against Sam Houston State. The teams will now wrap up the series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader Sunday at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.

Fans may use a ticket to Saturday’s postponed game or Sunday’s regularly scheduled game for admission to both games Sunday afternoon.

Numerous promotions are planned for Sunday’s doubleheader. The Southeastern Athletic Ticket Office is running a Mother’s Day ticket special, offering a pair of general admission tickets for $12.

It is also the final Local Hero Appreciation Day of the season. Every Sunday home game throughout the 2019 season, the Lions give thanks to first responders, military personnel and service members with a discounted ticket available at the ticket booth (must have a valid service ID).

Approximately 30 minutes before the first pitch, Southeastern will honor the largest senior class in the nation as part of its annual Senior Day celebration.

The game is also a Cane’s Challenge contest. If Southeastern scores five or more runs Sunday versus the Bearkats, fans can redeem their game ticket or student coupon at their local participating Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers to receive a free combo with the purchase of another of equal or greater value.

Both games of the doubleheader can be heard in the Hammond area on the flagship station of the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, KSLU 90.9 FM, online at www.LionSports.net/ListenLive and via both the Lions Gameday Experience and TuneIn Radio apps.

Fans can also keep up with all the action through streaming video ($), live statistics or by following @SLUathletics on Twitter. Web links to audio and video broadcasts, stats, promotions and tickets are available on the baseball schedule page at www.LionSports.net.

Southeastern senior right-hander Mason Knopp (6-1, 3.91) will oppose Bearkat senior left-hander Seth Ballew (2-4, 7.40) in the opening game of the doubleheader. The Lions have not announced a starting pitcher to oppose Sam Houston State junior southpaw Dominic Robinson (2-0, 3.65) in Sunday’s second game.

TICKET INFORMATION
Single-game tickets can be purchased online at www.LionSports.net/Tickets or by contacting the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Fridays. The ticket booth at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field opens exactly one hour before first pitch.

General Admission tickets for Lion home games are $9 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-12). Southeastern students are admitted free with a valid university ID card.

CLEAR BAG POLICY
Southeastern Athletics has instituted a clear bag policy for all ticketed events, effective with the start of the 2018 fall semester. The policy mirrors safety precautions taken upon entrance to professional and collegiate sporting venues throughout the country. For more information on the clear bag policy, visit www.LionSports.net/Clear.

LIONS GAMEDAY EXPERIENCE APP
The new Lions Gameday Experience app puts audio, stats, video, social media and more in the hands of fans. Those in attendance can also check in to earn reward points redeemable for Southeastern-related prizes. Available for both Android and iOS devices, it can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

DIAMOND CLUB / S CLUB
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the baseball program are encouraged to join the Diamond Club. Lion baseball alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letter winners.

All membership fees and donations to both the Diamond Club and S Club (baseball) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern baseball program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at [email protected] or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.

SOCIAL MEDIA
For more information on Lions Baseball, follow @LionUpBaseball or @MattRiser17 on Twitter, @LionUpBaseball on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.

LINESCORE
Southeastern 3, Sam Houston State 0
———————————————————————————————-
Sam Houston State… 000 000 000 – 0 4 1 (27-20, 16-9 SLC)
Southeastern…………. 000 002 10X – 3 4 0 (28-22, 17-8 SLC)
———————————————————————————————-
Pitchers: Sam Houston State – Wesneski, Hayden and Cannon, Jordan. Southeastern – Gaconi, Corey and Manola, Connor.

Win-Gaconi, Corey (7-2) Loss-Wesneski, Hayden (7-3) T-1:44 A-1127
HR SLU – Faulkner, Preston (9).
Weather: Mostly Cloudy 78, SE 8 MPH

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