Lions rally to win and advance to championship game

From SLU Athletics

CONWAY, Ark. – Southeastern Louisiana rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth inning Friday for 7-3 comeback victory eliminating Northwestern State from the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament.

Southeastern (36-23) had to come from behind after Northwestern State (33-25) wiped out an early 2-0 lead by the Lions.

"At the end of the day, the guys did a fantastic job of just grinding out a win," Southeastern head coach Matt Riser said. "We jumped on them early, but you have to tip your hat to that Northwestern bunch. That is a tough bunch of kids. They battled nonstop. They play fast and they play hard. The job that Lane Burroughs has down over at Northwestern is very impressive. Our guys just continued to compete no matter what. If they do that part of it, the rest will take care of itself."

The Lions jumped on Northwestern State starter Evan Tidwell for a pair of first-inning runs. Jameson Fisher smacked a one-out double down the left-field line before Tidwell walked Andrew Godbold, putting runners at first and second. Following a ground out that moved both runners into scoring position, designated hitter Daniel Midyett ripped a two-run triple into the right-center gap.

Sean Kennel worked around trouble in the first several innings before Demon right fielder Nathan Lyons led off the fourth with a solo home run to left. Designated hitter Nick Heath followed up with a single and then swiped both second and third base. Heath scored on a ground out to tie the game, 2-2.

With two outs in the fifth, Kennel walked Cort Brinson before a Demon single sent him to third. Riser brought in left-hander Matt Pitarri to face Lyons, but he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Brinson to score the go ahead run.

Over the next three innings, both pitching staffs took control. Pittari and Dylan Hills worked out of jams while Northwestern State reliever Brandon Smith, who entered the game in the fifth, retired 12 consecutive batters.

Southeastern's comeback began with a hit batter.

Smith hit Godbold with a pitch to lead off the ninth. Corey Bryan pinch ran for Godbold and Brett Hoffman followed with a single up the middle, before being lifted for pinch runner Ryan Byers. After Midyett popped up a bunt attempt, Sam Roberson tipped a dribbler in front of the plate. Bryan and Byers were in motion on the play and as Bryan rounded the third-base bag he drew the attention of Demon catcher C.J. Webster, causing his throw to first to pull the first baseman off the bag. Kennon Menard took advantage of the bases-loaded situation by ripping a double into the left-center gap, driving in Bryan and Byers to give the Lions a 4-3 lead.

Southeastern tacked on three more runs in the inning. Jacob Williams followed with a two-run double of his own to right-center, and Jacob Seward plated the final run on a ground out.

Mason Klotz worked a scoreless ninth to close out the game.

Hills (6-3) earned the win and Smith (3-3), working his third game in three days, was saddled with the loss.

The Lions, who advance to the tournament championship game for the third-straight season, will face either McNeese State (30-27) or host Central Arkansas (31-21) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bear Stadium. Central Arkansas and McNeese play the final game of day three at the tournament. Should McNeese win, it would force a 9 a.m. rematch with the Bears for the right to advance to the championship game. If Central Arkansas wins it will face the Lions in a rematch of last season's tournament championship contest.

Regardless of each team's tournament won-loss records, the championship game is a winner-take-all contest.

"We have been here before," Riser said. "We have guys who have been in this situation. We came here to win this thing. Obviously we have been taking it one game at a time, and keep playing like there is no tomorrow. It's plain and simple: there is no tomorrow if we don't win tomorrow. It is a goal that we have had and been striving for the entire year. We have been working hard, and the guys believe in it. The effort they are giving us is unbelievable."

Southeastern's tournament game can be heard in the Hammond area on KSLU 90.9 FM, online and either the KSLU or TuneIn Radio smartphone apps. Fans can keep up with the tournament through live statistics or by following SLUathletics on Twitter. The title game will be available exclusively on EPSN3.

An adult single-day pass is $14, while a single-day pass for children is $10. If Saturday features only one game, then tickets for the championship will be $9 for adults and $7 for children. Students at Southland Conference institutions will also gain free admission with a valid student ID. Tickets are available for purchase in person at the Central Arkansas ticket office, by phone at 501-852-2234, and online at the university's athletics website at