LAKE CHARLES, La. - McNeese head coach Justin Hill broke it to his team late on Tuesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and would miss the next four games, including Wednesday night’s longtime rivalry against Louisiana-Lafayette at The Jeaux.
The Cowboy players had his back in his absence with a 4-3 win over the Cajuns in a remarkable college baseball game. McNeese improved to 5-3 after winning for the fifth straight time.
Nate Fisbeck and Clayton Rasbeary belted out back-to-back triples in a four-run sixth inning, then Payton Harden had perhaps the play of the game when he threw out the would-be tying run at third base off a hit-and-run single to center field for the second out in the top of the ninth. Two batters later relief pitcher Hunter Reeves froze Cajun batter Carson Roccaforte for the third strike to end the game while recording the team’s first save of the season.
Isaac Duplechain (1-0) picked up the win in relief effort. He followed Jonathan Ellison who was magnificent in seeing the mound for the first time since recovering from a shoulder injury. Ellison threw three perfect innings to start the game while striking out five batters.
Rasbeary continued his hot streak at home as he finished 3 for 4 with a triple, RBI and run scored. Harden added a 2 for 4 night with a run scored. The first four batters in the Cowboys’ lineup went 7 for 15 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
Both team’s pitchers were dealing through the first four innings as neither squad was able to cross the plate.
ULL (7-3) struck first with two runs in the fifth inning, all with two outs. Julian Brock hit an RBI single down the left field line to plate the first run then a throwing error allowed a second run to score before Duplechain got Tyler Robertson to pop out to first base to end the inning.
The Cowboys went down in order in the fifth but in the sixth, Julian Gonzales got things going with a bunt single. Harden followed with a one-out bunt single that advanced Gonzales to second. Fisbeck then popped one to right center field as Cajun center fielder Robertson covered a lot of ground to get a glove on the ball but couldn’t bring it in as Fisbeck slid into third for a triple while Gonzales and Harden scored to tie the game at 2-2.
Rasbeary followed with a first-pitch swing that sent the ball near the exact same spot but over Robertson’s head as fell in for a triple, scoring Fisbeck and putting the Cowboys on top 3-2. Tre Obregon singled down the right field line for the fifth hit in the inning and scored Rasbeary to make it a 4-2 lead.
The Cajuns closed the gap to 4-3 on a Ben Fitzgerald RBI single but following that was Harden’s perfect strike throw from center field to get the out at third and squash a ULL rally.
In the ninth, the Cajuns threatened by loading the bases with one out but Reeves got Roccaforte to strike out looking on a full count to end the game.
McNeese will hit the road this weekend when it visits Louisiana Tech for a three-game series.