NATCHITOCHES – Matt Gallier and Shane Selman each blasted two-run, eighth inning home runs to help continue and offensive attack that saw McNeese score 11 runs on 11 hits from the fifth inning on as the 23rd-ranked Cowboys downed Northwestern State 13-4 to open up a three-game Southland Conference series.
But the big hit came off the bat of Joe Provenzano with two outs in the fifth inning.
Trailing 3-2 after Northwestern State scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, Provenzano took a 2-2, bases loaded pitch over NSU center fielder Tyler Smith’s head and banged off the bottom of the wall in dead straight center field. That triple cleared the bases and put McNeese (27-10, 17-2 SLC) up 5-3.
From that point on, it was all Cowboys as they scored 11 runs on 11 hits from that point forward.
“Pro’s at-bat changed the game,” said head coach Justin Hill of Provenzano’s hit. “That and his fielding to turn a double play (were game changers).”
McNeese scored the first two runs of the game, both on sacrifice fly balls in each the first and second innings, and had a chance to charge out to a big lead early after loading the bases with no outs in the first inning. The Cowboys left another runner in scoring position in the second but led 2-0 before the Demons (12-24, 4-12) tacked on a run in the bottom of the third to cut the margin to 2-1.
NSU starting pitcher Nathan Jones silenced the McNeese bats by getting them out in order in both the third and fourth innings. The Demons were set up for a big inning in the bottom of the fourth when after scoring a run to tie the game at 2-2, then adding another run to go up 3-2 following a bases loaded walk, Provenzano came up with his first big play of the game to turn a 4-6-3 double play and keep the Demons from adding to its damage.
“We had their starter on the ropes early but didn’t cash in,” said Hill. “Austin (Sanders) did a great job to keep in the game so we could make another run at him (NSU starter).”
That run came in the top of the fifth when Dustin Duhon led things off with a single and Robbie Podorsky reached on an error. Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch and Matt Gallier drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Provenzano followed with his big hit to clear the bases and put McNeese up 5-3. After a Demon pitching change, Selman planted a RBI single to center field to score Provenzano and make it a 6-3 game.
Sanders, who improved to 5-2 on the season, lasted one more inning before giving way to Grant Anderson who dominated the next two innings by striking out four of the eight batters he faced.
“Grant shut the game down and our offense kept stringing good at-bats together,” said Hill.
During that time, McNeese missed out on another big inning opportunity in the sixth inning when loading the bases with no outs. A double play ball by Gallier scored a run to make it 7-4 but that would be all the Cowboys would garner as the Demons escaped the threat.
Gallier got his revenge in the eighth inning, however, when he sailed the first pitch he saw over the right-center field wall, a two-run homer and his 11th of the season, to put McNeese up 9-4.
The Cowboys weren’t finished.
After Austin Nelson got a pinch-hit single, Selman knocked his eighth home run over the left field fence to make it 11-4.
Selman got one last stick on the ball in the ninth inning when he drove in Will Fox and Gallier with a triple to left-center field to make the score 13-4. He finished the game a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
Selman and Podorsky each had three hits to lead McNeese’s 14-hit attack. Fox and Provenzano each had two while Podorsky and Gallier each scored three times.
NSU first baseman David Fry led the Demons with a 3-for-4 game.
Game two of the series will carry a 2 p.m. first pitch on Saturday.