The third-seeded Northwestern State Demons came out on top in the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament opener, defeating No. 6 McNeese 2-1 to advance in the winner’s bracket.
The Cowboys got on the board in the first inning as a Dustin Duhon single to center field sent Joe Provenzano home for a 1-0 lead.
Northwestern State responded in the bottom of the first. Kwan Adkins got on base with a single before a Tyler Smith triple cleared the way for a 1-1 tie. Grant Anderson would fan the next two batters to end the opening frames.
At the bottom of the second, a well-placed bunt from McNeese’s Jacob Stracner was fumbled by pitcher Ridge Heisler to load the bases with one out for McNeese. However, the Demons would escape as Selman grounded out to a double play to end the inning.
Anderson had racked up eight strikeouts in six innings for the Cowboys to help keep the game knotted at one run apiece.
McNeese got its first hit since the third inning at the top of the seventh with a Brett Whelton double with two outs. Anderson again escaped as Stracner flied out to right center to end the inning.
The Demons got the go-ahead runner on third base with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. J.P. Lagreco notched a double of his own down the infield line before advancing to third on a Luke Watson single. Lenni Kunert grounded into a double play to shortstop but Lagreco would plate to break the stalemate 2-1 with two outs.
Aidan Anderson came on to pitch for the Cowboys after Grant Anderson had given up two earned runs on five hits through seven innings. On the other side, Dan Hlad took over for Heisler on the Demons’ mound with two outs in the top of the eighth. Heisler’s day was completed with one earned run and four strikeouts against 30 batters faced.
The teams reached the ninth with the score still 2-1 in favor of Northwestern State. With one out, Julian Gonzales came in to pinch hit for Hunter Racca with one out but flied into a double play to right field to end the game with a 2-1 Demons win.
Despite holding a 9-6 advantage on hits throughout the game, the Cowboys left seven total runners on base.
Northwestern State will face the winner of today’s noon matchup between No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana and No. 7 Nicholls tomorrow at 4 p.m. CT. McNeese will face the loser at 9 a.m.
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