Oh Bo! Demons respond in 13th, spoil Bulldogs’ comeback

LUCKY NUMBER 13:  Both teams scored in the 13th inning Tuesday night in Natchitoches before Northwestern celebrated Bo Willis’ walk-off single off the wall to give the Demons an 8-7 victory. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports 

NATCHITOCHES — Louisiana Tech used 13 position players and Northwestern State used 16. Each team used seven pitchers. It took 3:56 to play it. The score was tied four times, the lead changed hands five times…

… and on the final time, Northwestern scored twice in the 13th to win it, 8-7, on a cloudy and windy but comfortable Tuesday night in front of 1,027 fans who got their money’s-worth at Brown-Stroud Field.

Trailing 7-6 going into the bottom of the 13th, NSU’s designated hitter Broch Holmes ripped a leadoff double, and pinch runner Reese Lipoma scored to tie the game, 7-7, when the next hitter, Gabe Colaianni, tripled. Then with one out, backup catcher Bo Willis pinch-hit and singled off the wall in left center to score Colaianni and win it.

“It’s one of the harder things in baseball to do, stay locked in when you’re on the bench … but a couple of innings earlier Bob (NSU coach Bobby Barbier) came by and told me to get loose,” said Willis. “I was imagining the AB and I knew it was going to happen. It worked out well.”

To lead off the top of the tell-tale 13th, Tech’s Colton Hegwood, who came in to play shortstop in the eighth, walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ethan Bates, who started the game at second base and ended up on the mound.

Philip Matulia singled to shallow center and Hegwood, who had to wait to see if the ball would drop, moved to third. With one out, Dalton Davis sent an 0-2 pitch to the warning track in left for a sacrifice fly that gave Tech a 7-6 lead.

But it didn’t last long.

It was close, and why not? Tech won two games from the Demons by a total of three runs last year, and the Demons had won seven of their last eight games at home and were 10-3 at the BStro going into the game.

Northwestern climbed to 16-12 while Tech slipped to 14-15 near the middle of the season.

Get your tickets now: these two teams meet again May 2 in Ruston.

Tech took a 2-0 lead in the second when Brody Drost walked, was doubled to third by Adarius Myers, and scored on a groundout to shortstop by Walker Burchfield. Myers stole third and scored when Logan McLeod bounced a 3-1 pitch over the bag at second.

But the Demons answered in the bottom half when Holmes hit his third homer of the season to halve the Tech lead to 2-1. Colaianni doubled and scored when Bailyn Sorensen slammed a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left center for the 3-2 lead.

Tech tied it 3-3 in the fourth on an RBI single from Matulia that scored Will Safford, who’d doubled with two outs.

NSU surged ahead in the fifth when Jacob Farrell singled with two out and Jeffrey Elkins lifted a fly to right in the twilight that dropped for a single; Elkins ended up at second when the ball got loose in right and Farrell, running on contact, scored to give the Demons a 4-3 lead.

The Demons doubled-up the Dogs, 6-3, in the sixth when Holmes and Colaianni caused more trouble. Holmes singled with two outs and Colaianni followed with a home run.

In the seventh, Drost and Myers walked, and Burchfield made it 6-4 when he hit a rocket past the shortstop to score Drost for his 16th RBI of the spring. Thaxton Berch pinch ran for Burchfield at first base, and McLeod sacrificed Myers to third and Berch to second. After pinch hitter Karson Evans popped out, Bates hit an 0-2 pitch up the middle to tie things at 6-6.

Tech threatened in the 10th when, with one out, Berch singled sharply to right — his first hit of the year in six at-bats — and McLeod singled to left. Hegwood reached on a fielder’s choice when he grounded to second to force the hard-sliding McLeod at second as Tech stayed out of the double play, but Bates flied out to right to end the inning.

And on it went, the teams trading punches until the fateful 13th.

“You could dissect this any way you want, but those dudes played their tails off,” Tech coach Lane Burroughs said of the Bulldogs. “They deserved to win; we didn’t, but that’s the way life is. You don’t always win, even if you deserve to. I told the guys they played their tails off and I’m so proud of them.

“All that matters now is to come out and play Thursday (at Rice) the way we played today. Everybody was pulling for each other as hard as they could. It was a great dugout to be in. We played well and we played loose.”

“In a game like this, it’s good to see other guys step up,” said NSU’s Barbier, noting both sides got quality efforts from the bullpen and dugout. None had more impact than Willis’ pinch-hit appearance.

That swing was as cathartic for him as it was for the Demons, who improved to 6-0 in mid-week games while playing their final mid-week home game of 2023.

“For him to keep working at it and not complain in a day where complaining’s cool, sticking with it and coming through when he got the opportunity is special,” Barbier said. 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu