Saturday, April 3, 2021 – In a one-run series finale it was one swing for Central Arkansas and one play for Northwestern State that made all the difference in NSU’s 4-3 loss Saturday afternoon.
Trailing 4-0 in the fifth after a three-run homerun off the bat of UCA’s Kaylyn Shepherd in the third inning, the Lady Demons, (15-11, 9-3) who were hitless to that point, scored three runs thanks to two errors on the same play.
With runners at second and third after a walk and the Lady Demons’ first hit of the game from Hayley Barbazon, a sharp single through the left side, Laney Roos’ five-foot bunt back to the pitcher forced the wild play into motion.
A throwing error allowed Chelsea Spain and Barbazon to score while Roos rounded the bases behind them forcing an errant throw to third allowing her to finish her trip back to the plate pulling NSU back within a run.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens when you play hard,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “You get some breaks here and there. Hopefully we continue to get some of those beaks, and we start making some things happen. We had two really good teams out here this weekend, but we’ve got a lot of potential and improvement left out there that we can get to.”
E.C. Delafield, who throw the final five innings in relief, kept the Lady Demons in the fight with a shut-down inning in the sixth but the bats were left wanting in the final two innings.
The Lady Demons had a similar chance in the bottom of the first to grab an early lead with the same situation after a hit batter and walk opened the frame. A strikeout and grounder back to the pitcher ended the early threat and the only scoring opportunity for NSU until that fifth inning.
UCA (22-10, 10-2) starter Kayla Beaver retired 11 batters in a row following the first-inning threat by the Lady Demons allowing just one hit, the Barbazon single in the fifth, in 4.2 inning of work.
With Beaver keeping NSU off balance at the plate, the Bear offense provided just enough in back-to-back innings, picking up a run on an RBI-groundout in the second to take the 1-0 lead. The big swing for the Bears came in the third after two base hits started the inning and Shepherd’s long ball staked them to a 4-0 lead.
“We got down after they got that big swing in the third, but I was really proud of how we kept battling,” Pickett said. “Didn’t have a lot of things go our way this weekend but we kept fighting and finally got a break later to put ourselves in a situation to win the game. We just couldn’t get the big hit we needed.”
The Lady Demons had one final chance for a dramatic finish after pinch hitter Jensen Howell drew a two-out walk, but a strikeout ended the game leaving the tying run on first.
“I was really proud of how they kept the fight and I think we learned some things about our team today and this weekend,” Pickett said. “You learn the most when things aren’t going your way and I’m hoping we’re able to use this as a springboard and get going down the stretch of this season.
“We’ve just got to go back to work next week. It’s a new week next week, we’re going to work on the things we need to work on and put this behind us, learn from it and move on.”
NSU continues Southland Conference play with a three-game road series at Lamar beginning with a Friday doubleheader next week.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services
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