By McNeese Sports Information Assistant Hunter Bower:
LAKE CHARLES – McNeese junior James Cantu's walk off grand slam capped a five-run bottom of the ninth inning as the Cowboys rallied from a run down with two outs and bases loaded to defeat Southern University, 16-12, in front of a crowd of 1,173 Lake Area school kids at Cowboy Diamond on Wednesday.
McNeese (24-21) squandered a 9-4 lead in the final innings of the afternoon contest as the Jaguars (8-25) plated eight runs in the last two frames to take a 12-11 lead over the Cowboys heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Trailing by one run, the Cowboys made their final rally push as shortstop Connor Lloyd kept the inning alive as he was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. The rally then continued with pinch hitter Reed Gordy who drew a bases loaded walk to tie the ballgame at 12-12. With bases still juiced and only one out, Cantu got a good look at the first pitch of his at-bat and liked what he saw as he belted the game-winning homer to right field earning the Pokes their first mid-week win since March 5 at Louisiana Tech.
"A win like this is big especially with a grand slam to end the game," said head coach Justin Hill. "I am proud of how we responded throughout the game. I thought our energy level could have been better. Credit goes to James Cantu who probably hit the first walk-off grand slam that I have ever witnessed in my career."
Cowboy Diamond was filled with the sounds of cheer, laughter, stomping and yelling on Wednesday as over 1,110 elementary school children from 14 different Lake Area schools piled in to witness McNeese in action. The kids were entertained with in-game promotions while getting to watch their favorite Cowboys play.
"It was a great atmosphere for our team today and we want to thank all the students for coming out to support us," said Hill. These kids had to achieve certain academic standards to be able to attend today. They gave us a lot of energy today and we look forward to having them back soon."
Cowboys right-hander Steven O'Bryant (3-4) earned the win in relief after having tossed the last frame. He allowed four runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks and struck out two.
Southern's James Fontenot (1-1) took the loss after giving up seven runs (four earned) on four hits in the last 1.1 innings of play.
McNeese had 15 hits to Southern's seven. First baseman Chayse Marion went a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI while Lucas Quary finished 3-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Five different Cowboy batters recorded multi-hit games while Cantu led the team with RBI.
The game opened up with a McNeese 5-0 lead following a three-hit outing from the Pokes. Marion got things going with an RBI-single and was followed by Quary, Connor Lloyd, and Matt Williams.
The Cowboys used four runs in the next four innings to extend their lead over Southern with a 9-4 score.
The Jaguars cut into the lead in the eighth inning using four runs highlighted by a RBI-double from leftfielder Robinson Mateo to fire things off for the visitors. The Cowboys scraped across two runs in the bottom of the inning to extend their lead to an 11-8 score.
In the top of the ninth inning, Southern took the lead for the first time in the contest as centerfielder Tyler Kirksey doubled to right field sending in two runs to score and give the Jags a 12-11 lead.