NATCHITOCHES – For seven innings Wednesday night, the Northwestern State baseball team made every defensive play.
Twice in the final two innings, the Demons did not, and visiting Louisiana Tech took advantage.
The Bulldogs (32-15) turned errors in the eighth and ninth innings into two unearned runs and survived a ninth-inning rally to hold off Northwestern State, 4-3, at Brown-Stroud Field.
“We didn’t put enough together offensively to allow us to get a lead and to extend it, which makes every little play that much more important,” sixth-year NSU head coach Bobby Barbier said. “Then we screwed up a couple of them. You have to play perfectly when you don’t put enough together offensively.”
For the second time in the two-game season series, the Demons (21-23) had the winning run at the plate with less than two outs in the ninth inning against Louisiana Tech closer Kyle Crigger.
Trailing 4-2, Gabe Colaianni started the NSU ninth with a first-pitch double to right center before Jeffrey Elkins drew a walk.
One out later, Bryce Holmes’ double off the lower part of the wall in right center, six feet from a game-winning homer, scored Colaianni and left runners on second and third with only one away.
But Crigger summoned the right stuff. He used a strikeout and a groundout to strand the tying run at third base, earning his 10th save of the season in his 26th appearance, his fourth in a row.
“They did the same thing against us in the ninth against Crigger last time we faced those guys. They seemed to have had his number both times,” said Tech coach Lane Burroughs, the Demons’ head coach from 2012-16. “He pitched last night (closing an 11-5 win at ULM) and then on Saturday and Sunday he had six-out saves. When he comes into the game it is already stressful enough. He is a competitor.”
It was déjà vu from two weeks ago, when visiting Northwestern loaded the bases with no outs against Crigger but only scored once in a 6-4 loss in Ruston.
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead three batters into the game. Philip Matulia lashed a double to left center and one pitch later, Byrd product Steele Netterville drilled his 12th home run of the season, plating his 200th career RBI.
Starter Ethan Francis shook off the home run and started the NSU staff’s run of 6 1-3 scoreless innings with a goose egg in the second before Donovan Ohnoutka worked three scoreless innings of one-hit ball, striking out four.
Freshman right-hander Chase Prestwich relieved Ohnoutka and put up two shutout innings, using a double play to escape a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth and striking out Tech’s leading hitter, Taylor Young, with the go-ahead run on second base in the seventh.
Cameron Taylor (2-1) was in position to continue the Demons’ strong pitching performance, but his throwing error into the outfield on a potential double-play ball set up the go-ahead run in the eighth. Netterville delivered it on a sacrifice fly.
With two gone in the top of the ninth, Matulia cracked a shot down the first base line that Gray Rowlett failed to handle, scored as an error that gave the Bulldogs the insurance run which turned out to be the difference.
NSU took advantage of a Bulldog miscue to erase its early 2-0 deficit against Jarret Whorff.
With one on and one out in the fifth, second baseman Thaxton Berch booted Austin Kirkpatrick’s potential inning-ending double play ball, putting runners on the corners.
Jake Haze’s RBI single and good baserunning by Kirkpatrick allowed Daunte Stuart to tie the game with a sacrifice fly but Whorff stranded Haze at third to keep the game tied. The Bulldog starter allowed just four hits and struck out six, working out of jams in the third and fourth inning.
“What an incredible job by Whorff. We didn’t make the play at second, otherwise he tosses a shutout,” said Burroughs. “But our guys stayed composed and battled back. Phil did a great job on their lefty after striking out, and in his next at-bat (in the ninth) hit a ball hard off their first baseman. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys for holding the rope.”
Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE