JACKSON, Miss. – Northwestern State got the bounce-back performance it was looking for on Wednesday afternoon picking up a pair of wins at Jackson State 7-3 and 3-2.
Sage Hoover (5-3) and Bronte Rhoden (1-3) kept the Jackson State hitters off balance all day as the top of the Lady Demon lineup, led by Taylor Williams’ five-hit day, accounted for 14 of the 20 total hits.
The damage from the top of the order started in the very first inning where it took just two batter for the Lady Demons (14-11) to score their first run.
Bailie Ragsdale singled to start the day, moved to second on a throwing error and raced around to score on a Taylor Williams base hit to right three pitches later.
The 1-0 was protected by starting pitcher Sage Hoover over the next three innings as the Lady Demons had baserunners in each frame but could not add to the early edge. Hoover retired the first five batters she faced and got some defensive help after allowing a lead-off single in the bottom of the fourth.
Catcher Tristin Court caught the pinch runner too far off the bag at first, picking off the runner and saving a potential tying run after the Tigers (11-10) hit a double to left center two batters later.
Maggie Black started the next half inning with a base hit to center, and after moving to second on a sacrifice bunt scored on the second Jackson State error of the game on a ground ball to short.
Hoover struck out the side in the bottom of the inning on 15 pitches giving the Lady Demons all the momentum heading into the final third of the game.
With runners at second and third following a walk and Kat Marshall double, Vivica Hernandez slid home after a wild pitch and a Black sacrifice fly to right brought Marshall in extending the lead to 4-0.
Three straight two-out, extra-base hits in the top of the seventh blew the game open for NSU. Williams and Laney Rood started the rally with back-to-back doubles and Makenzie Chaffin finished it with a two-run home run to right making it a 7-0 game.
“We did a good job of adjusting in the first game and put up some crooked numbers at the end to blow the game open,” head coach Donald Pickett said.
Those late runs proved to be even more beneficial for NSU in the bottom of the inning as the Tigers, down to their final strike of the game, hit a three-run home run to center to break up the shutout bid.
Hoover finished the complete game effort two batters later with a fly ball to left, ending the Lady Demons’ short three-game losing skid.
The first four batters in the lineup went 8-for-16 with a pair of doubles and a home run in the win while Hoover picked up her fifth win of the season and fourth complete game.
After two scoreless and hitless innings to start the second game, NSU again struck first on Williams’ second double of the day to bring Hernandez around to score with two-outs in the top of the third.
The Lady Demons added to their lead in the fourth with two more extra-base hits to start the frame. Chaffin doubled to right center to start the inning and trotted home on a Keely DuBois two-run home run, her third of the season, that made it a 3-0 game.
Coming off five straight stellar relief outings and a Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week honor, Rhoden made her first start since the second weekend of the year and continued to pitch at a high level.
She retired 10 of 11 batters between the first and fourth innings without allowing a hit through 3 2/3 innings. The Tigers got their first run, an unearned tally, on a two-out single to right, the first hit allowed by Rhoden in the game.
“Bronte did a great job today,” Pickett said. “She only gave up one hit through three or four innings and if not for some wet spots on the field really wouldn’t have given up an earned run at all. She did a great job of attacking hitters and really settled in after that first inning.”
The NSU offense had at least one hit in each of the final five innings of the game but couldn’t bring any more runs across following DuBois’ home run in the fourth.
The Tigers cut the lead down to one in the bottom of the sixth but a call to Maggie Darr out of the bullpen immediately silenced any thoughts of a dramatic victory.
Darr struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to pick up her first career save, the third NSU pitchers to record a save this season and secure the Wednesday sweep.
The Lady Demons turned in their fifth and sixth games this season with double-digit hits and the second time doing so in consecutive games.
The top four batters in the lineup went a combined 14-for-30 on the day with three doubles a home run and five batted in.
“Bailie was able to get on a few times and really set the tone for us,” Pickett said. “Felt like Taylor got a hit every time she stepped up today and of course Mak had the big home run. They’re there for a reason and we need them to produce up there and they’re doing a good job of it.”
The Lady Demons travel to Memphis on Friday for the Tiger Classic beginning at 9 a.m. against James Madison.