Baseball: Demons rally for another series-finale victory

HOUSTON – Sundays are for the Demons — at least in the case of the Northwestern State baseball team and Southland Conference series finales.

The Demons awoke offensively late Sunday afternoon and then held on in true NSU fashion for a 6-5 victory against Houston Baptist in the final game of a four-game conference series at Husky Field.

“I was proud of them competing,” fifth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We had a lot of things in this game not go our way. We had a lot of bounces through the infield. We hit a lot of balls hard that happened to find gloves. We stuck with it, got an opportunity and got a big hit by Larson (Fontenot), another by Lenni (Kunert) and another by Daunte (Stuart). We got some big hits in a row. That’s how you have to score, put good at-bats together. We did that better today than all weekend.”

Fontenot capped a career-best, four-hit game with the biggest hit of his day – a two-run single that started the scoring in the pivotal four-run eighth inning.

Fontenot’s single off right-hander Morris Austin (3-1) was followed by an RBI single from Stuart and an RBI double from Kunert – all three of which came after HBU shortstop Sebastian Trinidad flubbed a potential double-play ball with one out.

“This whole weekend, I was seeing it good,” said Fontenot, who finished the weekend 7-for-17 at the plate. “The first game, I didn’t have the best at-bats with runners in scoring position. Coming into (the eighth inning), we had to get it done, get runners on and in anyway we can. I saw the pitch well and had a good swing.”

The four-run inning allowed the Demons (17-17, 11-9) to complete a comeback from an early 3-0 lead the Huskies (9-25, 6-14) fashioned against NSU starter Donovan Ohnoutka.

Houston Baptist scored their three runs in the second inning on an infield single by Chase Talbot and a two-run single up the middle by Jake Miller. All three runs came with two outs – the final two following the only two walks Ohnoutka issued in a career-long six innings.

That inning was the lone hiccup for Ohnoutka, who tossed 97 innings and retired 10 of the final 11 Houston Baptist hitters he faced.

Ohnoutka has started the past three series finales for the Demons, helping Northwestern State go 3-0 in those games. Overall, the Demons are 4-1 in the final game of their first five Southland Conference series of the season.

“Donovan’s story has been incredible for what he’s done for this team this year,” Barbier said. “From closing games to holding the lead earlier in the game to all of a sudden starting. He threw (97) pitches today. He hasn’t thrown 100 pitches in the last three years combined. We built him up to that. We thought he had a chance for that, and he’s given us three straight Sundays with good starts.”

Ohnoutka took a no-decision as the Demons’ four-run eighth inning came after a clean seventh from reliever Josh Banes (2-1), who followed that with another 1-2-3 inning in the eight.

Houston Baptist pressured Banes in the ninth as Parker Wayne tripled to start the inning and scored on a groundout. After Banes recorded the second out, the Huskies strung together three singles, including an RBI single by Miller, before Banes got Brandon Bena to fly out and help NSU gain another series split.

The one-run victory pushed NSU’s record to 7-4 in one-run games in Southland play.

Fontenot was joined in the NSU multi-hit club by Kunert, who finished 2-for-5 with an RBI. Miller led HBU with three hits and three RBIs.

“I thought the way we started the weekend, we were frustrated,” Fontenot said. “We came back and fought. That shows what the Demons are about.”

Northwestern State 6, Houston Baptist 5
NSU 000 200 040 – 6 10 0
HBU 030 000 002 – 5 11 1

W – Josh Banes (2-1). L – Morris Austin (3-1). 2B – NSU, Lenni Kunert 2, Marshall Skinner, Jeffrey Elkins. 3B – HBU, Parker Wayne. Highlights: NSU, Larson Fontenot 4-5, 2 RBIs; Kunert 2-5, 2B, RBI. HBU, Jake Miller 3-5, 3 RBIs.

Records: Northwestern State 17-17, 11-9; Houston Baptist 9-25, 6-14.

Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services