NATCHITOCHES – McNeese stranded 16 base runners against Northwestern State on Saturday while Demons’ third baseman Matthew Alford provided all the offense NSU would need on the afternoon against 23rd-ranked McNeese, hitting a three-run home run in the third inning then a solo shot in the seventh to help pave the way for a NSU 7-4 win over the Cowboys.
McNeese (27-11, 17-3) held onto sole possession of first place in the league standings while NSU improved to 13-24 overall and 5-12 in the league.
The Cowboys will go for the series win at 1 p.m. on Sunday. McNeese has not won a series at Northwestern State since the 1992 season.
McNeese stranded 16 runners on base for the game, eight of those through the first three innings.
“We just didn’t play the game well enough today,” said head coach Justin Hill. “We walked the nine-hole three times which set the tone for their guys. We had a lot of opportunities. We had some good at-bats we just didn’t cash in on them.”
McNeese loaded the bases in both the first and third innings but left the bases full. In the second inning, the Cowboys stranded runners at first and second without getting one across the plate.
“We had some hard hit balls and good at-bats, it’s not always going to work out for you,” said Hill. “The opportunities they had they were able to cash in.”
NSU starting pitcher Evan Tidwell held the Cowboys at bay despite allowing McNeese batters to get on base. Tidwell (2-5) threw six innings and gave up just two runs on five hits, but he walked six batters and hit another two that helped keep McNeese on the bases.
The Demons scored six runs in the third inning off McNeese starter Rhett Deaton (6-1) who was handed his first loss of the season. Alford’s three-run home run, his first of the day, capped the scoring for the Demons in the inning and giving them a 6-0 lead.
Bryan King relieved Deaton and threw four scoreless innings and allowing one hit, giving the Cowboys a chance to get back into the game.
McNeese cut the deficit to 6-2 with a couple runs in the seventh inning on a RBI single by Ricky Ramirez, Jr. and a sacrifice fly by Shane Selman. Austin Nelson entered to pinch-hit for Jake Cochran and drew a walk to load the bases but Mitchell Rogers grounded out to keep the bases loaded for the third time in the game.
Matt Gallier drove in a run in the eighth to cut the margin to 7-3 after the Demons got their seventh run off of Alford’s solo home run in the bottom of the seventh.
Then in the ninth, Shane Selman led off with a solo home run, his ninth of the season, to cut the margin to 7-4. Nelson followed with an infield single then Brett Whelton drew a one-out walk to put runners on first and second and after having the runners move up a base, a ground out to second base ended the game.
McNeese out-hit the Demons by a 10-7 margin with Gallier and Whelton each getting.
NSU’s Kyle Swanson picked up his fourth save of the season after throwing the final 2 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on four hits with three strikeouts.