Bullpen keeps Demons close, sets up Elkins’ winner against LSUA

NATCHITOCHES – A line of thunderstorms forced the Northwestern State baseball team to wait 90 minutes to start its game against LSUA on Tuesday night.

It took much longer for the Demons to find the clutch hit they were seeking, but ultimately, Jeffrey Elkins delivered.

Elkins’ two-run single sparked a four-run seventh inning rally that lifted the Demons to a 7-3 win against the visiting Generals at Brown-Stroud Field.

“I was just trying to find a hole and get runners in and win a game, something we’ve all been longing for,” said Elkins, a sophomore outfielder who recorded game-winning hits against LSU and Nicholls in 2019.

Elkins’ hit put the Demons (10-12) ahead for the first time and helped Northwestern State snap a four-game losing streak. It was the work of the NSU pitching staff, which was put in a tough situation just five pitches into the game, that kept the Demons close enough for Elkins to deliver another clutch hit.

Starter Josh Banes threw five pitches before exiting the game and turning the ball over to Reed Michel, who responded with four innings of shutout relief and a career-high six strikeouts.

Nik Millsap (1-0) followed and allowed two runs (one earned) in three innings, earning his first career win and tying a career high with four strikeouts.

“I’m really competitive, and Reed set the bar really high,” Millsap said. “I knew I had to go in and keep filling it up. It’s always nice to come back after some tough outings to get out there and have a good one for once.”

With Michel and Millsap limiting the damage, the Demons eventually broke through against a Generals squad that was playing its second game in 16 days.

LSUA also lost its starting pitcher in the first inning as Keith McKigney exited with an arm injury. Much like Northwestern State, the Generals got strong relief from Austin Manuel and Hunter Meche, who combined for 3 2-3 innings of shutout relief.

The Demons, however, feasted against a trio of right-handers, taking advantage of three Jacob Norman wild pitches in the fifth to score a run and four walks from Slone Greaves and Brandon Noel in the seventh.

Noel took the loss for the Generals, an NAIA member who played the game as an exhibition, allowing two runs in 2-3 of an inning.

The Demons drew seven walks and had three hit batters while LSUA pitchers uncorked six wild pitches.

“We found a way to win, which is a good thing we can say about this game,” fifth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We overcame an injury to the starting pitcher, which is always tough. Some guys came in and threw the ball well to keep us close when we were scuffling, and we got the big hit. Jeff got a big hit with the bases loaded and two outs. We found a way to win. Now we just have to keep building and getting better.”

The Demons return to action Thursday when they open a four-game Southland Conference series at Abilene Christian. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. at Crutcher Scott Field.

Northwestern State 7, LSUA 3
LSUA 100 010 100 – 3 8 3
NSU 000 010 42x – 7 7 2
W – Nik Millsap (1-0). L – Brandon Noel. 2B – LSUA, Kobe Baker. Highlights: LSUA, Alex Orenczuk 2-4, RBI; Louis Morgan 2-4, RBI. NSU, Daunte Stuart 2-2.
Records: LSUA 13-12; Northwestern State 10-12.

Photo: Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services

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