ABILENE – McNeese’s record-breaking baseball season added more flair on Sunday when the Cowboys completed the three-game Southland Conference sweep over Abilene Christian with an 8-5 win.
It’s the Cowboys’ 13th league win through the first 15 games, the best start in conference action in school history. The sweep also tied a school record with the program’s fourth conference sweep of the season.
The win was the fourth straight for McNeese, who improved to 23-9 overall and 13-2 in conference play, sitting just a half-game behind first place Sam Houston State (12-0) in the league standings.
Sophomore pitcher Aidan Anderson got his third start of the season, second consecutive, and picked up the win to improve his record to 3-2 on the year. After allowing three unearned runs in the first inning, he allowed just one hit over the next four innings.
“Aidan settled in nicely and pitched really well,” said head coach Justin Hill. “He continues to get better every time out. Him getting us through the fifth (inning) allowed us to not have to stretch out our bullpen.”
Four pitchers came out of the pen to throw the final four innings and giving up two runs while striking out eight batter. Collin Kober corralled his sixth save of the season after throwing a scoreless ninth.
In the three games, the McNeese bullpen threw 10 1/3 innings, allowed three runs, and struck out 12 batters while picking up two saves, both by Kober.
“I can’t say enough about how well our bullpen threw this weekend,” said Hill.
As well as the pitching staff competed, the bats were just as effective especially in crucial situations.
The nation’s 10th-best hitting team entering the game with a .319 batting average came up big again on Sunday with 10 hits, five of those for extra bases.
Third baseman Matt Gallier led the way with a 3-for-5 outing with two doubles and two runs batted in. He put the Cowboys on the board first with a one-out single that scored Dustin Duhon to make it 1-0.
ACU (9-19, 1-13 SLC) took a 3-1 lead with three unearned runs scored off two McNeese errors in the bottom of the inning.
In the third, Joe Provenzano knocked in Rickey Ramirez with a single and Gallier, who hit a two-out double, scored on an error by ACU second baseman Aaron Draper to tie the game at 3-3. Gallier belted his second double in the fifth inning to score Ramirez and break the tie, giving McNeese a 4-3 lead.
Duhon had the big blast of the game in the sixth inning with a one-out, three-run home run to make it 7-3.
“Duhon’s at-bat helped swing the momentum over to our dugout,” said Hill.
ACU rallied back for two runs in the seventh after a couple of singles to close the gap to 7-5, but another big home run, this time a solo blast by Provenzano in the top of the ninth, gave the Cowboys an insurance run as Kober came in to close out the game.
“Today was a battle from the get-go and our offense got some big hits,” said Hill. “Once we got the momentum shift out way, we were able to hold on for the win.”
ACU starting pitcher Austin Lambright (0-1) took the loss after he threw 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs, two earned, on five hits.
The Wildcats outhit the Cowboys by an 11-10 margin with first baseman Koby Claborn getting three of those in four plate appearances.
McNeese returns home on Tuesday for a 3 o’clock matinee game against Alcorn State then will host UNO beginning Thursday for a three-game conference series.
The Cowboys are 15-1 at home this season.