HUNTSVILLE, Texas – McNeese put Friday night’s dramatic walk-off loss to Sam Houston State behind it, and it showed on Saturday when the 27th-ranked Cowboys handed the Bearkats their worst home loss of the season by a 10-2 score behind a solid performance in all areas of the game.
“That was a gut-wrencher last night,” said head coach Justin Hill. “We had an opportunity to win on the road on a Friday night and we just got our heart ripped out of us. Not everybody can come back from that. You can look at all of the physical things – the hits, home runs, pitching performance. But to me, to be able to come back after getting your guts ripped out against a quality opponent, a really good team, on the road after something like that… I’m so proud of them.”
There were no signs of a repeat on Saturday.
Robbie Podorsky kicked things off with a solo home run on the very first pitch of the game to put McNeese on top 1-0. Then after the two teams traded runs through the first two innings, McNeese with one more than SHSU to hold a 3-2 lead, starting pitcher Rhett Deaton settled in and held the Bearkats scoreless the rest of his performance.
“It was a little shaky early,” said Hill. “We scored then they scored then we scored. Then Rhett just hanged some zeroes after that. We used a lot of our guys last night (Friday) so we needed Rhett and he knew he was going to have to throw. He knew he had to do something and he did it. That really impresses me.”
Deaton improved to 7-1 on the year after he allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings with a couple of walks and a strike out. And despite seeing runners on base in every inning, several in scoring position, the sophomore hurler never rattled.
“We have a great offense,” said Deaton. “I knew we were going to put runs on the board. And our defense made some great plays as well to get us out of some jams.”
One of those plays came in the sixth inning with McNeese leading 7-2 and the Bearkats with runners on first and second with one out. Bryce Johnson hit a screamer to left-center field but Podorsky was able to track it down on a full blown sprint for a remarkable catch and saving two runs.
“That was a huge play for us,” said Deaton who stranded 13 Bearkat base runners in his 7.1 innings with six of those in scoring position. Sam Houston left 14 total for the game.
The Cowboys (29-12, 19-4 SLC) opened the game up with a four-run fourth inning sparked by a bases loaded, base clearing double by Joe Provenzano to put the Cowboys up 7-2.
A Bearkat opportunity in the fifth inning was cut short by a 463 double play, the first of three DPs turned by the Cowboys in the game.
McNeese put the game away in the eighth inning with a three-run frame.
Will Fox, who ended the day with three hits, led things off with a single and Podorsky followed with a bunt single down the first base line. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch, and with one out, Ricky Ramirez Jr., who also had a three-hit game, belted a double to right field to score the two runners and make it 9-2.
Ramirez later scored on a Shane Selman single to make it a 10-2 game.
Aidan Anderson relieved Deaton with one out in the eighth and struck out two batters after giving up a single to the first hitter he saw. Gavin Sonnier tossed the ninth inning as the third double play of the game ended the contest.
McNeese pounded out 14 hits in the game with six extra base-hits while Sam Houston State (28-15, 14-6) put up 13 hits.
The Cowboys, who are back to a 3 ½ game lead over the Bearkats in the conference standings, will go for their first conference series win in Huntsville since 2000 on Sunday with first pitch at 1 p.m.
Left handed pitcher Bryan King is expected to get the start on the mound.