NATCHITOCHES, La (Northwestern State Athletics) – For eight innings, the Northwestern State baseball team did not pressure McNeese right-hander Ty Abraham.

When the Demons did in Saturday afternoon’s ninth inning, a disputed call disrupted their momentum and a late-inning rally as the Cowboys held on for a 4-2 victory to even the three-game Southland Conference series at a game apiece.

Down two in the ninth inning, Northwestern State (26-22, 11-9) loaded the bases with one out against McNeese right-hander Ty Abraham.

Abraham (2-2) got ahead of Gray Rowlett 0-2 before hitting Rowlett in the upper arm with a pitch. As Rowlett headed toward first base, home plate umpire Jeff Beaman ruled Rowlett had leaned into the pitch resulting in a strikeout.

It was Abraham’s 13th strikeout of the game, part of a strong start in which the right-hander went 8 2-3 innings and retired the Demons in order in six of those frames.

Brock Barthelemy got a strikeout on the only batter he faced to strand the bases loaded.

“Close games are always like that,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We competed hard. Their guy had a good breaking ball that gave us problems. We couldn’t solve him.”

NSU right-handers Alex Makarewich and Chase Prestwich (4-4) combined to strike out 12 McNeese hitters, but the Cowboys (32-17, 12-11) twice tallied go-ahead solo home runs – Josh Leslie in the first and Payton Harden in the eighth – among their six hits.

Harden’s tie-breaking home run clanged off the right-field foul leading off the eighth before the Cowboys used a pair of hits and an Andruw Gonzales RBI fielder’s choice to produce a pivotal ninth-inning insurance run.

“All three pitchers who threw the ball today threw it really well,” Barbier said. “They got the extra hit and the homer, and we just weren’t able to come through at the end.”

The Demons answered Leslie’s two-out, first-inning home run with their only extended offense against Abraham, stringing together singles from Jake Haze, Broch Holmes and Bailyn Sorensen to even the game in the second.

Until Jeffrey Elkins’ game-tying home run leading off the sixth inning, Abraham those were the only three base runners the Demons had put on against the McNeese right-hander, who established career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Michael Dattalo’s infield single with one out in the sixth would be the Demons’ last hit until Haze’s infield hit in the ninth.

“We put together some good at-bats there at the end,” Barbier said. “We just didn’t have enough to get it done.”

The series concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday with a matchup of right-handers. McNeese’s Bryson Hudgens (0-0, 0.00) will start against NSU’s Drayton Brown (4-6, 6.06).