Marshall’s blasts propel Lady Demons past Grambling

There were plenty of good times, good swings and good pitches for Northwestern State on Tuesday night in an 8-1 Mardi Gras win against Grambling.

Kat Marshall hit a pair of three-run home runs in back-to-back innings to break the game open for the Lady Demons (10-6), who got the bounce-back pitching performance they were looking for, allowing just one run on three hits to the Tigers.

“I thought we did pretty well in the circle,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “Early on we had some good swings and just hit the ball hard right at them, and they made some nice plays. We put two crooked numbers on the board in back-to-back innings which I loved to see. We got to play with a lot of people and they looked really sharp tonight.”

The NSU pitching staff quickly put the memories of Sunday’s performance behind it with another dominating effort of Tuesday. Maggie Darr (5-0) got the start and struck out the side in the top of the first. Grambling managed a well-placed bunt single and two-out blooper over third between Ks to scratch across its only run of the game.

The Tigers got a two-out double in the second for their third and final hit of the game as Darr settled in to retire the final seven batters she faced, striking out five of them.

“I think sometimes I let myself let the game get too fast on me instead of taking the time and taking a deep breath,” Darr said. “But once I settled in I think I came out a little stronger later in the game that I did at the beginning and that’s something we need to work on but Kenzie (Seely) and Bronte (Rhoden) came up behind me and did their job.”

After two innings with two runners on with one out and nothing to show for it, the Lady Demon offense broke through in a big way in the middle part of the game.

Bailie Ragsdale started the third with a base hit and Laney Roos followed with a sharp single up the middle two batters later. The third time was the charm for NSU as Kat Marshall drove the ball over the right-centerfield wall to give the Lady Demons a 3-1 lead.

“The first time through our lineup we were seeing the ball well and hitting the ball pretty hard but had some trouble getting runs across,” Marshall said. “She was keeping it outside a lot and I was just trying to see it up in the zone some and outside and just drive it the other way.”

Marshall found herself in a similar situation in the fourth inning after a nice bit of two-out hitting from Roos to single through the left side to bring Casey Irvin in to score. Marshall got the 2-0 pitch she was looking for with runners on first and second and drove the ball over the left-center wall for her third home run in two games and sixth RBIs of the night.

“She did a good job of being patient and not trying to lift up on the ball,” Pickett said. “She stayed on it and is driving the ball gap to gap and down the line. When she’s doing that, swinging at good pitches like that she’s a really great hitter. Glad to see her have those approaches tonight and open the game up for us.”

Makenzie Chaffin made it two straight games with three home runs for NSU as she turned on a pitch and sent it out down the line in right to add another run in the fifth to make it an 8-1 game.

Rhoden entered the game after Chaffin’s home run to put an even bigger exclamation point on the home win.

Five strikeouts in two innings of work, getting the final three batters of the seventh all swinging, on 13 total pitches slammed the door emphatically on the night.

“She came in that first inning and looked pretty good but that last inning she looked just dominant,” Pickett said of Rhoden’s outing. “She came in attacking the zone and did a great job. That’s what she can do and I’m glad to see her come out there and be confident and do what we know she can.”

NSU had 10 hits for the third straight game as it won its seventh game this season holding opponents to three hits or less.

The Lady Demons head to Arlington, Texas, this weekend for the Boerner Invitational hosted by UTA. They start the weekend with a game against Fordham at 10:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

Photo: Gary Hardamon