LAKE CHARLES - McNeese won its sixth game in the last seven outings in large part to the relief pitching effort by Zach Rider who threw 4.1 innings and allowed just one run and four hits to pick up his second win of the season as the Cowboys downed Northwestern State 4-3 on Sunday to capture the Southland Conference baseball series.
The win improved McNeese's record to 19-21 overall, but more importantly, 14-7 in conference play and back into a tie for second place in the league standings with Southeastern Louisiana. NSU fell to 21-18 and 9-9 in the league.
The Cowboys will be back in action on Tuesday when they visit Louisiana-Monroe before returning home against first place Sam Houston State next Friday-Sunday.
Tyler Wesley started the game and lasted four innings while allowing two runs on three hits. He gave up both runs in the top of the first inning, all with one out, then settled in to keep a strong hold on NSU's offense.
Meanwhile, McNeese chipped away at the lead, beginning with a Carson Maxwell solo home run in the bottom of the first to make it a 2-1 game.
In the fourth, singles by Joe Provenzano, Dustin Duhon and Jake Cochran loaded the bases with one out. A fielder's choice RBI by Jacob Stracner scored Duhon to tie the game at 2-2, then Brett Whelton drew a bases loaded walk to put the Cowboys on top for good at 3-2.
Wesley walked the lead-off batter in the top of the fifth and that's when head coach Justin Hill made the call for Rider, who came in and surrendered a hit to the first batter faced, but then got the next batter David Fry to ground into a double play. A ground to Reid Bourque at shortstop followed and the Cowboys got out of the inning.
McNeese added to its lead in the seventh inning after Bourque and Maxwell posted back-to-back singles, then a Provenzano fielder's choice with the bases loaded scored Bourque to put the Cowboys up 4-2.
NSU made a run in the ninth inning when Peyton Davis led off with a single. After the first out, pinch-hitter J.P. Lagreco reached after being hit by a pitch, which forced Hill to make another call to the bullpen, this time for Peyton McLemore.
Sam Taylor greeted McLemore with an RBI double down the left field line that cut the lead to 4-3 with one out and the Demons' top two hitters coming to the plate. McLemore delivered back-to-back swinging strike outs on the two and picked up his first save on the season in the process.
McNeese out-hit the Demons 9-8 as both Provenzano and Cochran collected two hits each.
Nathan Jones (2-4) took the loss for NSU.