HAMMOND, La. – A battle of the two top arms in the Southland Conference lived up to the billing on Friday night, but a home run by Preston Faulkner was all Southeastern Louisiana needed to pick up a 3-0 win over the Sam Houston State Bearkats at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.
The Lions (28-22, 17-8 SLC) took sole possession of first place in the league with the win, despite finishing with just four hits in the game. Meanwhile, the Kats (27-20, 16-9 SLC) fell into a tie for second place with UIW with five league games to play.
Bearkat ace Hayden Wesneski retired the first 10 hitters he faced and went the distance, but fell to 7-03 on the season as the homer to Faulkner off the left-field pole with two outs in the sixth proved to be all Lion starter Corey Gaconi would need. Wesneski punched out nine in the game, becoming just the fourth SHSU pitcher in the D-1 era to reach 100 strikeouts in a season.
Gaconi, a senior right-hander who was making his final start on his home field, dealt his second consecutive complete-game shutout in as many years against SHSU, striking out six while not walking a batter to move to 7-2 for the season.
Sam Houston’s chances against Gaconi were few and far between on the night, finishing with just four hits on the night and just one after the fourth inning. The Kats got a runner as far as second base in the opening inning before stranding runners on second and third in the fourth in what was SHSU’s best scoring chance of the evening.
Meanwhile, SLU did not get its first runner on the bases until one out in the fourth inning on a single by Faulkner. But it was his swing two innings later that was the biggest of the game as he banged an offering from Wesneski off the left-field pole, keeping it just fair for his ninth homer of the year to make it a 2-0 game.
The Lions tacked on an unearned run an inning later on a hit batter, single and the first error of the game by either team.
Jordan Cannon led off the game with a single, but it was one of just four for the game by the Kats. Hunter Hearn also had a single in the fourth that was followed by a two-out double from Clayton Harp, but Gaconi was able to work out of what would be the final jam of the game for the Lion starter.
The teams are scheduled to continue their three-game set on Saturday with the second game of the series scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. first pitch.