Gaconi shuts down Lamar as Lions win 10th straight
Sophomore tosses first complete game of career
HAMMOND, La. – After surrendering a leadoff home run to Lamar, Corey Gaconi shut down the Cardinals the rest of the way as Southeastern Louisiana extended its winning streak to 10 straight games with a 4-1 Southland Conference victory Saturday at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.
Southeastern (14-4, 5-0 Southland) maintains its position atop the Southland standings with the win over Lamar (10-10, 0-5 Southland), its 10th straight victory over the Cardinals.
For the second day in a row, the Lions wiped out an early Lamar lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Drew Avans, a junior from Alabaster, Alabama, worked a one-out walk from Cardinals' starting pitcher Carson Lance (3-2). Following an infield single by second baseman Carson Crites, the duo executed a double steal.
With a pair of runners in scoring position, junior third baseman Taylor Schwaner ripped a two-run single to left field.
A Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week, Schwaner padded his conference-leading RBI total with sacrifice fly in the third to put the Lions up, 3-1.
Following the leadoff home run, Gaconi retired seven in-a-row. After a one-out double snapped that string in the third, he retired the next eight batters.
"Corey does a good job of filling up the zone and eliminating the free passes," head coach Matt Riser said. "He just goes right after hitters, fearless. We really needed a good start out of him after using three guys out of the bullpen Friday."
Lamar threatened in the sixth, loading the bases, but Gaconi worked out of the one-out jam with a fly ball to shallow center field and then fanning the final batter. It started another string of eight consecutive batters retired, lasting into the ninth.
The Lions picked up their final run in the seventh on doubles by Scottie Sanders and Ryan Byers.
After Reid Russell led off the ninth for Lamar with a double to right-center, Gaconi fanned the cleanup hitter on his way to retiring the final three batters of the game.
Gaconi (2-0) went the distance to earn the win. A junior from New Orleans, Louisiana, he allowed one run on six hits and did not walk a batter. Gaconi struck out five.
Lance suffered the loss, allowing four runs in 7.2 innings of work. The right-hander surrendered nine hits and two walks, fanning three batters.
Byers (2-for-3) and Schwaner (2-for-3) led the Lions at the plate, with Schwaner driving in three.
"Solo home runs aren't going to beat us," Riser said "Eliminate the free passes. That's what we did a tremendous job of today. The wind was blowing out to right-center. It had a chance to be a big day for them offensively. First one goes out the ballpark and the next one goes to the wall. They've got some big, physical bats in that order. That's why it's so vital to play good defense."
Sunday's series finale is Family Day and a Cane's Challenge game. Cub Club members will be allowed on the field to stand with their favorite player for the National Anthem and to run the bases at the conclusion of the game.
If the Lions scores four or more runs, everyone in attendance wins a buy one get one free meal deal from Raising Cane's. Fans can bring their game day tickets to redeem the deal and students can pick up a card from the student entrance.
Lamar is slated to start junior right-hander Jace Cambell (1-1, 3.86) in Sunday's 1 p.m. series finale. The Lions will counter with junior right-hander Kade Granier (1-2, 6.87).
The game can be heard in the Hammond, Louisiana, area on KSLU 90.9 FM, and worldwide online or through the TuneIn Radio app (search for KSLU). Fans can keep up with the game through live statistics or by following @SLUathletics on Twitter. Streaming video of the game will be available on LionVision, Southeastern's subscription-based video stream.
Links for audio, video, stats, tickets and game day promotions can be found on the baseball schedule page at www.LionSports.net.