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SLU loses in extra innings to McNeese

A walk-off sacrifice fly by Cowboy pinch hitter Peyton Johnson scored Braden Duhon for the...
A walk-off sacrifice fly by Cowboy pinch hitter Peyton Johnson scored Braden Duhon for the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 6:51 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A back-and-forth contest went the way of the hosts, as top-seeded McNeese took down No. 2 seed Southeastern Louisiana University, 6-5, in 12 innings in the opening game of the best-of-three Southland Conference Baseball Championship Series Thursday night at Joe Miller Ballpark.

A walk-off sacrifice fly by Cowboy pinch hitter Peyton Johnson scored Braden Duhon for the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Gage Trahan (4-4) took the tough-luck loss after his longest outing of the season, as the SLU closer allowed one run in 3.2 innings of work.

Southeastern (28-29) will need two wins to rally for the championship series victory and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. McNeese (34-21) can close out the series and its third straight conference tournament win with a victory in Friday’s game two at 6 p.m.

Every Lion starter reached base in Thursday’s loss. Preston Faulkner led the way with a 3-for-6 showing that included two doubles and three RBI. Tyler Finke hit his ninth home run of the season, while Christian Garcia and Tristan Welch contributed two hits apiece for Southeastern.

After holding the Cowboys at bay in the opening two innings, Lion starter Adam Guth allowed McNeese to strike first in the bottom of the third inning. An RBI single by Duhon gave the hosts a 1-0 lead. After Payton Harden singled to put a pair on, Guth induced an inning-ending double play by Kade Hunter to limit the damage.

McNeese doubled its lead without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the fourth. Guth walked the bases loaded, then hit Kade Morris to force in a run and give the Cowboys a 2-0 cushion.

After being held scoreless by Southland Pitcher of the Year Grant Rogers through four innings, the Lion bats came alive in the top of the fifth. Singles by Welch and Bryce Grizzaffi, followed by an Evan Keller walk loaded the bases with one out.

Rogers then plunked Rhett Rosevear to force in SLU’s first run, as the Lion second baseman drew his nation-leading 33rd hit-by-pitch to get Southeastern on the board. Faulkner then ripped the next pitch into the right-centerfield gap to clear the bases with a three-run double to give Southeastern a 4-2 lead.

SLU looked poised to add to its lead in the top of the sixth inning, as consecutive singles by Garcia and Welch chased Rogers from the game. Tyler Stone came in and hit Grizzaffi to load the bases, but rallied to strike out Keller and Rosevear to keep the Lion advantage at two.

McNeese cut into the lead in the bottom of the sixth, but Hayden Robb and Dalton Aspholm limited a potential big Cowboy frame. McNeese loaded the bases with no outs, but Robb forced a double play to allow a run to score. Robb walked Duhon to put the go-ahead run onboard, but Aspholm retired Harden to keep SLU ahead, 4-3.

SLU got the run back in the top of the seventh, adding to its Southland tournament-record home run total. Finke lifted a two-out solo shot – Southeastern’s 17th of the tournament – over the left-centerfield fence to increase the Lions’ lead to 5-3.

McNeese answered in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-out rally. After a walk and a single put a pair of runners on, Andruw Gonzales singled home a run to cut the lead in half. After Aspholm issued a walk to load the bases, he recovered to retire Morris and keep SLU on top, 5-4.

The Cowboys erased the Southeastern advantage in their half of the eighth. Aspholm hit Harden with one out to put the tying run aboard. One out later, Brad Burckel lifted a double to the left-centerfield gap to knot the game at 5-5.

Faulkner led off the top of the ninth with a double, but would be stranded. Cameron Foster (4-2) retired Shea Thomas, Finke and Champ Artigues to leave the go-ahead run in scoring position. Trahan stranded the potential game-winning run on first in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.

Foster and Trahan matched zeroes in the 10th, sitting down the respective opposing lineups in order. Foster backed it up with a 1-2-3 11th, but Trahan kept SLU alive by stranding a pair of Cowboys in the bottom of the frame.

Julian Gonzales robbed Thomas of an extra-base hit to lead off the top of the 12th, then Foster struck out Finke and Artigues to run his batter retired streak to 12 batters and set up McNeese’s walk-off in the bottom of the frame. The Southland Relief Pitcher of the Year struck out eight in 4.2 innings of shutout relief to earn the victory.

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