The Port Arthur News
When the first pitch crossed the plate at 2:01 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at Vincent-Beck Stadium, it’s unlikely that many expected what would turn into one of the all-time great pitching duels in Southland Conference history as the Lamar baseball team picked up a 1-0 victory in the 18th inning over rival McNeese State.
Momentum carried in each team’s direction on a number of occasions, but Jonathan Dziedzic and Travis Moore were able to weather the storm, holding a McNeese team that scored nine runs a night ago to just six hits and a pair of walks. Dziedzic picked up his third double-digit strikeout performance of the season, fanning 12 in 10 innings of work, and Moore, a freshman out of Pearland, struck out 10 more en route to his first career victory.
“What a ball game, and I think it was the best-pitched game that we’ve ever had,” head coach Jim Gilligan said. “It doesn’t get much better. I mean, 22 strikeouts from both guys, and they both should get credit for the win on that one. McNeese was just as good. Really, it took an error to help set up the win. It was just an unbelievable game.”
“We were playing desperate,” Moore explained. “We were going to do whatever it took to go out and get our first conference victory, whether it was nine innings or 18 innings. I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and let my defense work, and we got it done.”
The Cardinals (20-5, 1-1 SLC) were finally able to cash in on the jaw-dropping performance from the duo in the bottom of the 18th. Darian Johnson got it started with a one-out double to left center. An error by McNeese second baseman Phillip Lebleu and a walk loaded the bases for Aaron Olivas. The senior third baseman made it count, looping the ball over the outstretched arm of first baseman Chayse Marion to bring the nearly four-hour game to a close.
“Our pitching really held us in the game, and getting that hit was just amazing,” Olivas said. “It got a little bit frustrating, but we just had to stay focused and then it came through. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Olivas finished the game 3-for-8 at the plate. V.J. Bunner was the only other player to record multiple hits, going 2-for-8, and as a team, Lamar out-hit McNeese 9-6.
McNeese was stellar on the mound with starter Blake Ware allowing three hits in 10.2 innings of work, and Sam Peterson tossing another scoreless 5.1 before Trey McGee was pegged with the loss.
Dziedzic, who now sits second in school history with 262 strikeouts, was feeling it early as he faced just two hitters over the minimum through seven innings of work with nine Ks. The first real test for the junior came in the eighth. Cowboy hitter Andrew Guillote beat out a great play by Bunner at second base for an infield single, but fellow Cowboy Cameron Toole was not as successful as Cardinal first baseman Brad Picha gunned him down at the plate to get out of the frame.
Dziedzic regrouped, mowing down the side in order in both the ninth and 10th frames, paving the way for Moore.
“Obviously, it went pretty well today,” Dziedzic said of his performance. “I had all of my stuff working. When you come out of the game like that, you’re just hoping to get the win. It’s great to see Moore come out and pick up from there. He was just filling up the strike zone.”
Moore tossed a perfect four innings before Tyler Klouser led off the 15th with a double. An intentional walk and a throwing error by LU catcher Zach Luevanos put the freshman into a bases-loaded jam, but the Cowboys (13-9, 1-1 SLC) were left flailing as Moore struck out the ensuing three hitters to send the game into the 16th.
“I was just running on adrenaline out there,” Moore said. “My fastball was gassed after about the third or fourth inning, and they just couldn’t hit the curveball. Luevanos just kept calling for the curve, and it worked.”
“[The 16th] was just a crazy morale booster,” Olivas said. “I mean, you have a freshman with the bases loaded and the game on the line, and he was able to get three strikeouts in a row, and it’s just crazy and it pumped everybody up.”
It got dicey a few more times for Moore as a two-out error and single put two on for the Cowboys in the 17th before a ground ball brought the frame to a close. The Cowboys also put the go-ahead score 90 feet from home in the 18th with two outs left, but Cardinal outfielder Joe Arechiga was able to keep the runner at third with a great throw in from center and Darian Johnson caught another fly ball in left to quell the rally and set the stage for a dramatic bottom half of the frame.
At 18 innings, the game was the longest in school history, and now with a 20-5 record, it marked the fastest Cardinal team to 20 victories since 1979.
The Cards and Cowboys will return to Vincent-Beck Stadium on Sunday for the rubber game of the series. LU is looking for a sixth consecutive weekend series victory, and David Carver will get the start on the mound. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m.