NACOGDOCHES – Starting pitcher Bryan King made his return a solid one and Dustin Duhon kept swinging the hot bat as McNeese erupted for a 12-3 Southland Conference baseball win over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday afternoon while capturing the league series for the second consecutive weekend.
McNeese (7-11, 4-1 SLC) has won five straight games and will now go for its first sweep of the season when the two teams play the final game of the series at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. SFA fell to 4-13 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
King, pitching for the first time since March 3 when he was removed after just two innings against UTSA after straining an oblique muscle, tossed five innings on Saturday to get the victory and go to 1-0 on the year. He gave up three runs on seven hits with three strike outs in the game.
“It was good to have Brian back out there,” said Hill. “I thought he pitched incredibly well. He was moving his fastball around and changing speeds. He kept the innings small.”
King had the offense with him as well as the Cowboys belted out 13 hits in the game, the second-most on the season, with six of those going for extra bases.
Duhon held the hot hand once again, going 2-for-2 on the day with a home run, his third of the season, a double, two RBIs and three runs scored. He hit a homer in his third straight conference game.
“Dustin has been having really good at bats for the last couple of weeks,” said Hill. “The hits are finally starting to come.”
Carson Maxwell added a 2-for-4 game with two RBIs and a run scored, lead-off batter Reid Bourque finished 2-for-4 with four runs batted in and a run scored while Shane Selman posted a 2-for-6 game with an RBI.
“We have created a little bit of length in the lineup and it has allowed us to create offense in a variety of ways,” said Hill.
Every starter in the lineup posted at least one hit.
McNeese got on the board with a run in the top of the first inning after it took advantage of a couple of walks and a wild pitch to take a 1-0 advantage.
The Cowboys added to the lead in the second inning after Duhon and Andrew Bryan led off the inning reaching by way of walk and a hit by pitch. Maxwell knocked in Duhon on a RBI single to left field and Bourque followed that with a RBI single to score Bryan and make it a 3-0 lead.
Duhon’s third home run in as many conference games in the third inning made it a 4-0 lead while King was taking care of business on the mound, holding the Lumberjacks to just two hits through the first three innings.
Bourque got his second RBI of the game on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning that scored Mitchell Rogers who led off the frame with a double. That gave the Cowboys a 5-0 lead before SFA got a solo home run from Manny Vasquez in the bottom of the fourth to put the Lumberjacks on the board.
Duhon came up big again in the fifth with a one out, RBI doubled to make it 6-1 but the Lumberjacks answered with a two-run homer by Nick Daley to cut the margin to 6-3. King finished out the inning and gave way to his bullpen who shutdown the Jacks bats the rest of the way.
McNeese opened the game up with a five-run seventh inning behind a solo home run by Jake Cochran and a two-run double from Bourque to help increase the lead to 11-3. The Cowboys added one final run in the ninth inning off a RBI double by Jacob Stracner to make it a 12-3 game.
The Cowboys’ bullpen was magnificent. Four pitchers – Zach Rider, Chris Campbell, Brody Strahan and Austin Briggs combined to throw four scoreless innings while allowing just one run with four strike outs and three walks.
SFA starter Sean Beasley (1-1) took the loss after he allowed five runs on five hits in three innings of work.
• 2B Joe Provenzano got one hit on the day, bringing his career hits total to 198.
• The Cowboys will start RHP Tyler Wesley in Sunday’s finale.
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