McNeese falls 9-8 to Ohio State in 13 innings at Nashville Regional

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McNeese vs. Ohio State

NASHVILLE – McNeese’s magical season came to an end on Saturday afternoon when the Cowboys dropped a 9-8, 13-inning dogfight to Ohio State in the elimination game of the 2019 NCAA Baseball Nashville Regional at Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field.

McNeese (35-26) led 8-5 heading into the eighth inning but four walks and a couple of singles enabled the Buckeyes (36-26) to tie the game at 8-8 before Cowboy reliever Brad Kincaid, the third pitcher of that inning, got the final two outs.

The Cowboys had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the 10th inning when Carson Maxwell led off with a double into the right-center gap. Julian Gonzales then flied out and Dustin Duhon was intentionally walked to put the runners on first and second.

After Reid Bourque struck out for the second out of the inning, Payton Harden singled to left field as Maxwell was forced to hold up at third on the hard hit shallow single that loaded the bases.

Nate Fisbeck followed with a hard hit grounder to second base that was fielded up the middle and the throw barely got Fisbeck at first to end the inning.

Meanwhile, Peyton McLemore, the Cowboys’ fourth reliever of the game, was rolling along by keeping the Buckeyes off the bases through the 12th inning, but in the 13th, Ohio State drew a lead off walk that was followed by a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second, then a grounder to third for the second out. OSU center fielder Ridge Winand then placed a single up the middle to score Conner Pohl from second to give the Buckeyes a 9-8 lead.

McNeese went down in order in the bottom of the 13th as OSU reliever Andrew Magno retired the last 10 Cowboy batters he faced with six of those on strike outs.

“It was a memorable game,” said head coach Justin Hill. “We just came up on the wrong side of it. I thought both relievers at the back end of the game pitched really well. It’s a shame either one of them had to factor into the decision.

“It was a typical tournament game. We had a couple of chances to win the game they just happened to get the swing at the right time.”

Ohio State took advantage of two, first inning McNeese errors that happened on the same play and led 1-0 after the top of the first, but McNeese came back and took advantage of a Buckeye error and a couple of wild pitches to grab a 2-1 lead after one.

McNeese scored two more in the third inning when Harden led off with a walk and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice, then Maxwell hit a two-out double to score Clayton Rasbeary to make it a 4-1 lead with just one hit on the board.

“It was really an unorthodox start to the game for both teams,” said Hill. “We had two errors on one play in the first inning. At one point the score was 2-1 and neither team had a hit. It didn’t make much sense.

“We had to go to the bullpen a little early. I thought Cayne Ueckert did a good job. When he came into the ballgame, he settled things down and got a big double play and stretched the game out for us.”

OSU used the big stick to get back into the game, first on a fourth inning, two-run home run by shortstop Zach Dezenzo to trim the McNeese lead to 4-3, then in the fifth inning, left fielder Brady Cherry led off with a solo homer to tie things up at 4-4.

After that home run, Pohl followed with a single in what would be the final batter Cowboy starter Rhett Deaton would face. Ueckert entered and got the Buckeyes to ground out into a double play then struck out Dezenzo to keep the Ohio State rally short lived.

McNeese answered in the bottom of the fifth when Fisbeck led off with a walk, advanced to second after tagging on a long fly out by Rasbeary, went to third off a Shane Selman single to left field, then scored on Jake Dickerson’s grounder that put the Cowboys up 5-4.

But the Buckeyes struck again with the long ball in the sixth when Dominic Canzone hit a two-out blast over the left field monster wall to knot the game up 5-5.

The Cowboys opened the game up in the bottom of the sixth when Gonzales got things started with a double and scored on a throwing error after advancing to third as the throw attempt at to third base went into the Cowboys’ dugout and allowed Gonzales to score to put McNeese back on top 6-5.

Bourque followed with an infield single but was then picked off first base for the second out of the inning. Harden walked, and after a Buckeye pitching change, Fisbeck singled which advanced Harden to third. Rasbeary then walked to load the bases and Selman popped a two-run single to center field to score Harden and Fisbeck to make it an 8-5 McNeese lead.

Neither team got any offense going in the seventh, but in the eighth, the Buckeyes rallied to tie the game.

“I was proud of how our guys fought,” said Hill. “It was probably really symbolic with the way that our season was. It was a fight. It wasn’t always the prettiest thing but it was gritty the whole time. We left it all out there.”

McLemore (1-2) suffered the loss after matching a season-high with five innings pitched and allowed just one run and two hits, walked three and struck out one.

Magno (5-3) picked up the win for the Buckeyes after throwing 7.1 innings and giving up one run and five hits, walked two and struck out 12.

Offensively, the Cowboys finished the game with 10 hits, led by Harden’s three knocks while Selman and Maxwell each had two hits. Selman also knocked in three runs while Dickerson finished with two RBIs.

The Buckeyes finished with 11 hits and were led by Cherry’s 3-for-5 game.

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