McNeese pulls away late to clinch spot in Southland Conference Championship series
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LAKE CHARLES, La. – McNeese’s Southland Baseball Tournament immortality continued with a 7-2 win over No. 8 UIW Friday night, and the Cowboys will play for a third-straight conference title May 26-28 at Joe Miller Ballpark against the winner of the Hammond Bracket.
For the second-straight night, McNeese (33-21) got a dominant long-relief performance out of the bullpen as Tyler Stone struck out a season-high eight batters in three innings of work. Earning his first save of the year, he allowed just one hit. Zane Zeppuhar improved to 2-0 on the year with two innings of no-hit ball.
Stone entered in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and – after giving up a walk to bring UIW (21-31) within one – struck out the Cardinals No. 2-4 hitters on strikes to get out of the tough spot. He went on to strike out the first two swinging in the eighth and retired the side on strikes in the ninth.
Despite suffering the loss, Kayden Cassidy (0-3) registered a quality start with six punchouts over six frames and three runs allowed on four hits.
After the Cardinals grabbed an early lead on a Hernan Yanez sacrifice fly, the Cowboys responded with a two-out double from Julian Gonzales that allowed Josh Leslie to score from first.
McNeese took its first lead of the game in the home half of the fifth, when Kade Morris turned on a pitch at the knees and sent it well over the wall in left. The Pokes padded their lead with another in the following inning with Kade Hunter scampering home on a wild pitch.
Southland Player of the Year Payton Harden gave McNeese some separation in the seventh with a two-out single up the middle to drive in Reid Bourque.
The Cowboys added three to their lead by way of a Josh Leslie RBI double and a two-run single off the bat of Andruw Gonzales before the first out of the eighth.
McNeese will host the winner of the Hammond Bracket in a best-of-three series, set to begin May 26 at 6 p.m. CT.
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