HAMMOND, La. — McNeese successfully defended its Southland Conference Baseball Tournament title after holding on for a 2-1 victory over Sam Houston on Saturday night at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field in Hammond, La.
Clayton Rasbeary provided the game-deciding moment with a two-run home run in the opening frame, his third blast of the tournament. He was named the tournament MVP after hitting 5-for-12 (.417) with six RBI, five runs and three long balls.
Cowboys starter Will Dion, who gave up a one-out triple to Southland Player of the Year Colton Cowser, punched out the final two batters of the inning to strike out the side. That gave the momentum to the Cowboy offense, which got the scoring underway on the two-run bomb from Rasbeary.
Dion joined Rasbeary on the all-tournament team after tossing three innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts to end the tournament with 14 strikeouts over 10 innings and just one earned run allowed.
The long ball served as a wakeup call for Bearkat starter Kyle Backhus as he retired the next 15 McNeese batters in order, pounding the strike zone with 40 of his 51 pitches in the zone over that span. However, even after tossing a complete game with just one earned run on three hits and six strikeouts, Backhus (4-2) was the losing pitcher.
Cowser registered his second extra-base hit in his next at-bat in the third with an RBI double in the right-center gap to cut the deficit in half. However, after Cowser advanced to third on a flyout in foul territory, Dion sat down his seventh batter on strikes to close the inning.
The Cowboys finally got to Backhus again in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases on back-to-back singles from Payton Harden and Rasbeary, but Backhus escaped the jam as Anthony MacKenzie turned the 6-3 double play.
Cameron Foster (5) earned the save after striking out four and scattering just two hits over the final 4.2 innings of the contest. With a pair of runners on and two outs in the eighth, he ousted the scoring threat by freezing Mason Schulz on a sweeping curveball to end the inning.