GRAMBLING – In order to successfully bullpen a mid-week baseball game, almost every pitcher must be sharp.
The five Northwestern State pitchers who took the mound Tuesday night at Grambling weren’t always sharp, but they were effective, limiting the Tigers to four hits in a 4-1 Demon win at Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Field at Wilbert Ellis Park.
“It’s hard to have five or six guys hit the mound and every one of them be sharp,” said fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier, who collected his 100th victory at the helm of his alma mater.
“I don’t think everybody was sharp, but they competed. They competed in the strike zone. Even when we got in trouble, we got a double play ball. I thought we played pretty good defense on a tough surface. Those guys (at Grambling) did a great job getting the field ready to go, and I know how hard that is It was nice to see us compete in the strike zone.”
The Demons (12-4) fired a handful of pitchers at the Tigers, limiting Grambling (6-10) to four singles.
Evan Daigle started and worked two innings, getting an inning-ending double play in the second to limit the Tigers to one run, before Reed Michel (1-1) turned in three scoreless innings.
Michel was the beneficiary of two big swings from the Northwestern State offense, which counted three extra-base hits among its seven total hits.
Freshman Gabe Colaianni, making his collegiate debut, tripled on the first pitch he saw leading off the third inning and scored on Larson Fontenot’s sacrifice fly one pitch later to tie the game.
Colaianni’s three-bagger was just the second triple hit by Northwestern State this season. The third came an inning later and was responsible for providing the go-ahead run that put NSU ahead to stay.
After Peyton Davis drew a two-out walk off right-hander Grant Landry (1-1), Cameron Parikh tripled to right field to score Davis. Right fielder Ian Bailey’s throw skipped past the third baseman, allowing Parikh to score and push the Demons ahead 4-1.
“We knew what kind of player Gabe is,” Barbier said. “You always fight that battle of redshirting them or letting them go and maybe getting a few at-bats. He forced his way in with the way he has been playing and hitting BP.
“We took some big swings today, but we have to learn that, when some of those guys come in, we should do better that we have to have a little better at-bat. We had a chance to put the game away (in the seventh inning) with second and third and nobody out. We went punchout, punchout, ground ball. You can’t do that just because you have someone to rely on back there (in the bullpen).”
That somebody morphed into somebodies Tuesday night.
Josh Banes induced an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning, and Cameron Taylor breezed through a clean seventh before putting runners on the corners with one out in the eighth inning.
Enter Swanson, who struck out the final two Tigers of the eighth and two more to collect his fourth save of the season and the eighth of his career, moving him into a three-way tie for seventh place in school history.
“It makes it easier to fall in behind (the earlier relievers) because after seeing the success those guys have, you want to keep it rolling,” said Swanson, a fifth-year senior who has been accepted into medical school. “It also gives me a lot of confidence coming into a game that our defense has made some big plays in because I know they’ll have my back out there.”
The Demons return to action Friday night when they open a Southland Conference series at New Orleans at 6:30.
Northwestern State 4, Grambling 1
NSU 001 201 000 – 4 7 0
GSU 010 000 000 – 1 4 3
W – Reed Michel (1-1). L – Grant Landry (1-1). S – Kyle Swanson (4). 2B – NSU, Hilton Brown. 3B – NSU, Cameron Parikh, Gabe Colaianni. Highlights: NSU, Marshall Skinner 2-4. GSU, Jeremy Almaguer 2-3.
Records: Northwestern State 12-4, Grambling 6-10.
Photo: Demon head coach Bobby Barbier earned his milestone 100th victory Tuesday night at Grambling. Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services