NSU splits a pair of shutouts in NHDDC Lady Demon Classic

For the second straight day at the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission Lady Demon Classic, host Northwestern State was involved in two shutouts.

The one difference for the Lady Demons on Saturday was one went against them.

Northwestern State opened its back-to-back games with a taut 1-0 win against UT Martin before falling to Baylor, 5-0, in NSU’s final game of the tournament.

The Lady Demons’ 9 a.m. Sunday game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff has been canceled because of expected freezing temperatures in the morning.

“We had good pitching all the way through the weekend,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “The last game should have been a one- or two-run game, but we made some mistakes. We were in position to make the plays, but we didn’t execute. We complicated two of them. You can’t give good teams those opportunities. They take advantage of them.”

Against UT Martin (2-2), Northwestern State followed a similar script from its two Friday wins.

NSU (3-1) got a strong starting pitching performance from Kenzie Seely (1-0), who worked four scoreless innings against a Skyhawks’ lineup that had scored 22 runs in their first three games of the tournament.

Seely allowed just four baserunners (two hits, two walks) in her four innings, and the Northwestern State defense backed its pitcher with a couple of key plays, including the final out of Seely’s outing.

With two on and two outs in the fourth inning, Kaci Fuller singled to second baseman Taylor Williams, who made a lunging play on the ball. Kaitlyn Kelley, who began the play at second base, never broke stride rounding third.

Williams made a perfect throw home to Tristin Court, who dropped the tag on Kelley to maintain the Lady Demons’ 1-0 lead.

For the second straight day, Kat Marshall provided a big swing for Northwestern State, breaking a scoreless tie with a towering solo home run to left center off Alexis Groet (1-1) in the second inning.

Because of Seely and three scoreless innings from Sage Hoover, who shut out Chattanooga on Friday, the Lady Demons collected their second 1-0 win of the weekend.

“Offensively, we struggled all weekend,” Pickett said. “We know we’re better than that, and we will be. Being able to have that good pitching and timely hitting, it’s like how you play in the postseason. We got those timely hits with Laney (Roos) and Kat over the weekend that gave us a chance to win games. You have to keep playing until you find a way to win, and the girls found a way to win this weekend.”

The Lady Demons pressured UT Martin late but could not convert in the final two innings, stranding three runners in scoring position.

NSU could not continue to build on that momentum in its second game of the day against Baylor.

The Bears (2-0) jumped to a 1-0 lead on Aliyah Binford’s two-out, RBI double in the first inning, which gave Binford all the run support she needed.

Binford tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout, striking out 11.

Tristin Court had both of NSU’s hits, breaking up Binford’s no-hit bid with a fifth-inning single.

Court’s flare to right field followed a Marshall walk, part of an inning in which the Lady Demons loaded the bases with one out. However, Binford started an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play to maintain the shutout.

“We got better as the weekend went on,” Pickett said. “We faced some really good pitchers – other teams’ No. 1s all weekend. It was a good learning experience, a good starting point and good foundation for what we need to keep working on and improving. The girls are really hungry to do that. I’m excited to see what this team can do going forward.”

Northwestern State returns to action Wednesday, traveling to Ruston to face Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m.

PHOTO: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services