LAKE CHARLES – The McNeese baseball team closed out its regular season home schedule in dramatic fashion Sunday as the Cowboys pitching staff helped lift their team to a 5-3 victory over Southeastern Louisiana to avoid a Lions sweep and keep their Southland Conference tournament hopes alive.
Leading 4-2 in the top of the sixth inning, SLU (31-22, 16-11 SLC) was able to cut the lead to one run on a two out RBI-single, placing runners at first and third in the process. With the tying run standing at third, junior Cory LaPeze came in to relieve Tyler Erickson. LaPeze did not disappoint. Facing a 3-0 count, LaPeze fired off three consecutive strikes to lift the Cowboys out of a jam and leave the tying run stranded at third.
McNeese took advantage and added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh to go up two runs on its opposition and score the victory on Senior Day.
With the victory, McNeese (28-23, 17-10) took one step closer to postseason play. The win unofficially puts the Cowboys into the field of eight with just three games remaining in the regular season. A victory over Nicholls next weekend would guarantee McNeese a berth into the tournament.
"Usually these types of games are high-scoring affairs but I thought our pitching staff did a great job limiting them (Southeastern La.) today and helped us get a win," said head coach Justin Hill.
The McNeese pitching staff combined for 13 strikeouts and stranded 10 SLU runners while allowing just three runs and eight hits during the ballgame.
"I thought Bryce (Kingsley) threw the ball well for us today," said Hill. "He had a great start and kept plays small today. He also had great defense behind him and made great plays in the field. All those things were good for us today."
Kingsley (5-3) picked up the win after tossing 5.2 innings and gave up just three runs on six hits. The sophomore right-hander struck out seven batters in the process.
Cory LaPeze earned his second save of the year after recording career highs. The junior reliever worked a career high 3.1 innings and fanned a personal best six batters. He did not allow a hit nor a run during his time on the bump.
"Cory was really good out of the bullpen for us today," said Hill. "The fact that he continued to show good stuff during his time on the mound gave him the opportunity to pitch longer and helped us out in the long run."
Erickson tied the record for most appearances in a single season Sunday after coming in to relieve Kingsley on the mound. Erickson is now tied with former McNeese head coach Chad Clement for 31 appearances in a season and has a chance to set the record next weekend in Thibodaux.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the beginning of the game, SLU (31-22, 16-11 SLC) found itself in a hole as McNeese sprayed four hits and used RBI singles from first baseman Chayse Marion and shortstop Connor Lloyd.
The Cowboys tacked on two runs in the third inning, which was highlighted by a two-RBI triple from third baseman Reed Gordy, to extend the lead to a 4-1 score.
Center fielder Andrew Guillotte led the offensive attack for McNeese, finishing 3-for-5 with two runs scored while Jackson Gooch batted 2-for-4 and scored two runs.
The Cowboys will wrap up the regular season in Thibodaux next weekend when they travel to face Nicholls in an always-exciting finale. Nicholls remains one of the top teams in the league with an 18-9 league mark.
All three games will be featured on Cajun Radio-1470 AM in Lake Charles and online at cajunradio.com. Bruce Merchant will provide the call for the game. Fans can keep up with in-game updates and other information by logging on to Twitter @McNeeseBaseball.