HUNTSVILLE – The McNeese Cowboys took the lead on the first pitch of the game and never looked back, handing the Sam Houston State Bearkats a 10-2 loss on Saturday at Don Sanders Stadium, evening the weekend series at one win apiece.
Robbie Podorsky homered off of Bearkat (28-15, 14-6 SLC) starter Seth Ballew on the first pitch of the day, igniting a 14-hit, 10-run outburst for the Cowboys (29-12, 19-4 SLC) that saw them score multiple runs in three separate frames.
The Bearkats had no trouble putting traffic on the base paths throughout the day, following a 17-hit outing on Friday night with a 13-hit effort on Saturday; however, Sam Houston stranded 14 runners on the bases while Cowboy starter Rhett Deaton managed to work through 7.2 frames with just one strikeout to earn his seventh win of the season.
Bryce Johnson reached base four times for Sam Houston, picking up a pair of singles as one of five Kats to register a multi-hit game. But of the Bearkats 13 hits, only one went for extra bases; meanwhile, McNeese was able to take advantage of five Sam Houston walks and a pair of hit batters, pounding out six extra-base hits on the day.
Joe Provenzano delivered the big hit of the game, opening up what was a 4-2 game and pushing the Cowboy lead to 7-2 with a three-run double that capped a four-run fourth inning for McNeese.
Seth Ballew was saddled with the loss for Sam Houston, falling to 4-3 on the year after lasting just 3.1 innings with four strikeouts. Mark Hammel, Brad Demco and Jordn Cannon all also saw time in relief with Demco pitching beautifully for four frames before running into trouble in the eighth.
The Kats were able to answer Podorsky's first-inning solo shot with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning when Clayton Harp delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Johnson from third after he had opened the inning with a base hit. But McNeese answered right back, getting singles from Austin Nelson and Mitchell Rogers to open its half of the second with both coming around to score to push the lead to 3-1.
Taylor Beene picked up the first of his two hits on the day with an RBI single to score Hunter Hearn in the bottom half of the inning, and Ballew responded with a perfect third that included a pair of strikeouts.
But the Cowboys opened things up in the visiting half of the fourth, getting runners on second and third with one away. A walk to Ricky Ramirez loaded the bases and another free pass one batter later to Matt Gallier increased the Cowboy advantage to 4-2. Provenzano then slammed the first pitch he saw from Hammel into the left-center field gap, clearing the bases and giving McNeese a comfortable 7-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
From there Deaton would continue to work out of trouble, stranding three runners over the next two innings before putting himself in a jam in the sixth. The Bearkats loaded the bases with two outs after singles from Blake Chisolm and Beene, along with a walk to pinch hitter Jaxxon Grisham; however, Deaton was able to get Lance Miles to smack a hard-hit ball right at shortstop for the inning's final out to end the threat.
Meanwhile, Demco had retired eight hitters in a row before the Cowboys finally got to him in the top of the eighth to put the game away. Singles by Will Fox and Podorsky immediately put the Cowboys in position and two batters later Ramirez plated a pair with a double off the right-field wall. Shane Selman added an RBI single later in the inning, giving the Cowboys a 10-2 lead.
The Kats did manage to put together another threat in the bottom of the eighth, chasing Deaton from the hill after loading the bases with one away; however, McNeese reliever Aidan Anderson was able to keep the Kats off the board with strikeouts of both Grisham and Miles.
The teams will go at it one more time on Sunday in the rubber match of the series with first pitch set for 1 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium. The Kats will start right-hander Hayden Wesneski while the Cowboys are scheduled to start sophomore lefty Bryan King in the series finale.
Head coach Matt Deggs on Saturday's game …
“They are a really good ball club. You just can't be generous with good teams that can swing the bat the way they can. We were a little too generous today and a lot of what they got, we gift-wrapped. They can swing the bat and they capitalized on our mistakes on the bump and were able to produce some runs.”
Deggs on the Bearkat offense …
“We swung the bats extremely well, we just never cold punch it in at the right time. We left a lot of runners on base, but our approach was great and our aggression was good. We racked up 13 hits. You have to give their guy credit too. He scattered a bunch of knocks, but we were never were able to take them down. I don't think the score is indicative of how hard-fought it was. I thought it was a very intense ballgame. We have to bounce back and win the series.”
Deggs on what it will take to win the series …
“It's the same formula every game, especially against good ball clubs. We have to pitch super efficiently and dominate routine plays. I thought our defense was outstanding today, which was a great bounce back after yesterday. You have to be able to punch in big two-out RBI and if we do that I like our chances.”