LAKE CHARLES – McNeese waited a little too late to get the bats going on Friday night in the opening game of a Southland Conference baseball series against first place Sam Houston State as the Bearkats jumped on top 4-0 behind a couple of Clayton Harp home runs before McNeese rallied in the eighth to close the gap, but one run too short in a 4-3 loss.
The loss dropped the Cowboys to 20-22 on the season and 14-8 in conference play while the Bearkats improved to 29-13 and 16-3 in the league.
Bearkat starting pitcher Nick Mikolajchak struck out a career-high 10 batters in seven innings and kept the Cowboys’ offense out of sync through seven innings.
McNeese got hot late and scored three runs in the eighth inning, powered by a three-run home run by Mitchell Rogers to cut the gap to 4-3, then had the tying run on second base, but Bearkat closer Dakota Mills shut the door on the final five Cowboys he faced to notch his 11th save of the season.
Cowboy starter Grant Anderson threw eight innings and allowed all four runs, three of those earned, on nine hits while striking out six and walking none.
“I thought Grant threw the ball well,” said head coach Justin Hill. “Harp but a couple of good swings on him. We were able to make the adjustment after. We made a couple of mistakes and made a good pitch. He’s just big and strong.
“At the same time, Grant gave us a chance to come back later in the ball game.”
SHSU opened up the game with an unearned run in the first inning after Anderson wasn’t able to squeeze a two-out pop fly off the side of the mound and the batter ended up on second. The next batter singled up the middle to score the run and put the Bearkats up 1-0.
“That first run, that was just poor,” said Hill. “The biggest thing for us, we just didn’t have good at bats.”
The Cowboys struck out 14 times and placed just one over the minimum through the first eight innings until the bats came alive in the eighth.
Trailing 4-0, Shane Selman and Dustin Duhon got things going with back-to-back singles. After Jake Cochran went down swinging, Rogers planted his fourth home run of the season off the top of the scoreboard to pull the Cowboys to within 4-3.
Brett Whelton followed with a double down the right field line. Speedster Julian Gonzales entered to run for him as the tying run, but he would be left stranded after Jacob Stracner and Reid Bourque struck out to end the inning.
The Cowboys went down in order in the ninth to end the game.
Aidan Anderson threw the ninth inning and struck out two while giving up a hit.
Rogers finished the game with two of the Cowboys’ six hits on the night while Carson Maxwell extended his hitting streak to a team-high 12 games.
The Bearkats put 10 hits on the board with Harp collecting three of those.
Mikolajchak ran his record to 6-4 on the season while Anderson took the loss and fell to 3-4.
Game two of the series will carry a 3 p.m. first pitch on Saturday.
Copyright 2018 KPLC. All rights reserved.