SUGAR LAND, Texas — After more than four hours of rain-delayed baseball, Southeastern Louisiana’s bats finally came to life in their final at-bat.
Josh Watkins broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Lions scored three runs late in a 5-3 win over Lamar in the first round of the Southland Conference tournament in front of 1,421 at Constellation Field.
“It was definitely a grind tonight with the rain delay,” SLU coach Jay Artigues said. “The guys did a great job coming up big in the clutch. They really came through late.”
After three uninterrupted games to begin the tournament, the nightcap saw a steady downpour start in the second inning. The tarp was rolled out after the final out of the second inning, delaying the game for 1 hour and 34 minutes.
While it took the Lion bats a while to get going, SLU’s pitching kept them in the game after the rain delay.
Kyle Cedotal came on in relief of Kaleb Manuel, allowing just one hit over 4.2 scoreless innings. Freshman closer Mason Klotz got the final three outs for his tenth save for the fourth-seeded Lions.
“Caleb gave us a chance early and when they called my number, I just tried to keep us in it,” Cedotal said.
The left-hander settled in nicely, getting 12 outs before allowing a hit. He got out of his only real jam in the top of the eighth, stranding runners at first and second by getting the final two outs.
That’s when the Lion bats came to life.
Aaron Haag hit a one-out double, followed by a Ladd Rhodes walk. Then came Watkins’ single to left field to give the Lions the 3-2 lead.
Alex Marse followed with another single and Rhodes and Watkins scored on an error by the Lamar right fielder to put the Lions up 5-2.
Watkins was the only multi-hitter for the Lions, who had eight players with hits.
“We won this game together,” Watkins said. “It’s fun just being out here with the guys and being able to win one as a team.”
Lamar, the tournament’s fifth seed, took the early lead on a two-out RBI single by Seth Dornak in the first inning.
The Lions (34-22) tied the game in the bottom of the second after Tanner Rainey drew a bases-loaded walk to score Harry Slade, who led the inning off with a single to center.
After the long rain delay, SLU took the lead in the third inning on an RBI grounder by Slade, who reached first on an error by Lamar shortstop Sam Bumpers.
Lamar (36-19) tied it back at 2 in the top of the fourth on a Jude Vidrine RBI single to right field, scoring Garret Autrey, who led the inning off with a triple.
That was the end of the day for Manual, who returned after the long rain delay. He finished the game pitching 3.1 innings, allowing two earned runs.
That’s when Cedotal (5-5) came in to work his magic, followed by the three-run eighth inning.
Lamar got one back in the top of the ninth on a two-out RBI single by Darian Johnson.
The Lions will advance to play top-seeded Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. Thursday, with freshman Tate Scioneaux (6-3, 3.70) expected to take the mound.
Lamar will face McNeese State in an elimination game at noon.
“We need to enjoy this one tonight but get to bed,” Artigues said. “When our heads hit the pillow, we need to start focusing on a really good Sam Houston team.”
SAM HOUSTON ST. 8, McNEESE STATE 3: McNeese State drew within one run in the eighth inning against top-seeded Sam Houston State, but the Bearkats pulled away with four runs in the bottom of the inning to win.
Sam Houston starter Tyler Eppler (5-2) threw seven innings and allowed just one earned run on three hits. Kevin Miller had a 3-run home run, while Carter Burgess had two hits and an RBI for the Bearkats.
Blake Ware went 7.2 innings for the eighth-seeded Cowboys, giving up all eight runs on 10 hits.
Lucas Quary led McNeese with two hits and a run scored. Connor Lloyd and Michael Sullivan each had a hit and an RBI for the Cowboys.