In the first two games of senior weekend for Northwestern State it was a pair of freshmen that came through big time in a doubleheader sweep of UIW on Friday night.
Pitcher Sage Hoover continued to add to her already stellar rookie season by throwing the 15th no-hitter in program history getting the 1-0 win to start the day. Bailie Ragsdale came through with a two-run double early in the second game to set the Lady Demons up for a series-clinching 5-3 win.
“We were able to make some plays on defense and got some great pitching today,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “We were able to get these two wins even though we’re still struggling a little bit offensively. But we saw some good things and some positive things from some different people in the lineup and hopefully that’s going to start trending for everyone up and down the order.”
A week after two pitcher’s duels in the first two games against McNeese, the Lady Demons (27-17, 9-5) found themselves in another one to open the series with UIW.
Neither team found the hit column for the first three full innings of the game as both pitchers, Hoover for NSU and Ashley Trapp for UIW, danced around a handful of walks.
Keely DuBois finally broke the hitless stretch in the bottom of the fourth on a sharp single through the left side to start the inning. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt and being pinch run for by Casey Irvin the Lady Demons picked up what proved to be the game-winning run on the second and final hit of the entire game.
The key moments of the day were reserved just for the freshman as senior Alexis Perry delivered a bouncing ball back up the middle that brought Irvin in from second and give NSU the 1-0 lead.
“There were two hits in the whole game,” Pickett said incredulously. “I’ve been in a lot of 1-0 games but I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a game quite like that. Sage just kept grinding it out and doing some good things mixing it up.”
After striking out the side in the top half of the inning, Hoover fully settled into the game and after seeing her teammates give her the one-run advantage, slammed the door on the Cardinals across the final three innings.
She allowed just one base runner, a two-out walk in the fifth, the rest of the way as the defense maintained its sharp work in the field.
“I think our defense has gotten so good lately,” Hoover said. “It’s always been good but they’ve been making the big plays more and more. Maggie (Black) was huge in both games for us today. Keely’s play was awesome, Taylor’s (Williams) play was awesome, we’re just really solid all around.”
Hoover became just the second pitcher under Pickett to reach 150 strikeouts in a season in the second inning of the game. In the seventh she moved to the top of the list for most single-season Ks under Pickett with her seventh and eighth of the game. She passed Kelee Grimes (154) and sits alone with 156 and counting.
The no hitter was completed on an infield pop-up to first that fell into the glove of Kat Marshall.
“I really didn’t notice until the seventh inning when we got that first out,” Hoover said. “I looked at the scoreboard and saw that zero and was like I have to get this done. It was all heart. I really wanted it for my team.”
NSU jumped ahead early in the second game with three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Some key substitutions, on the base paths and at the plate, played a big role in the NSU rally.
After the first two batters of the inning reached, and a sacrifice moved them up a bag, Pickett called on Lexie Roos to pinch hit to try and bring at least one run in.
As she has done in each of her previous three pinch-hit appearances, Roos came through for the Lady Demons. A sharp single through the left side scored the run from third and kept the line moving to the top of the order.
“There’s been a couple of games this year where I’ve kicked myself for not using her early and waiting to later in the game,” Pickett said. “When we get the opportunity score, we need to do what we’ve got to do and Lexie has been doing a great job in that role.
“She’s had some great at bats and it’s just a huge boost for us. It loosened everybody up, got the confidence going, brought the energy, switched the momentum to us and we were able to turn it into three runs. It’s a difference maker having a hitter off the bench that’s confident and can give you a quality at bat when you need it.”
That’s when Ragsdale came up with her biggest contribution of the day, placing a ball perfectly into right field for a double that plated two more runs and gave NSU the early 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals were able to pull back within a run in the next half inning on a bases loaded single to center, but back-to-back, two-out hits in the bottom of the fourth for NSU pushed the edge back up to three.
Makenzie Chaffin delivered the first of the two straight hits to bring Ragsdale in to score and Perry came through again with a shot up the middle of her own for her second RBI of the day.
Kenzie Seely and Maggie Darr (9-3) combined for six strikeouts and just two earned runs in the game two win.
The Lady Demons will try for their second conference sweep of the season on Saturday beginning at 12 p.m. Senior presentations for Maggie Black, Cayla Jones and Alexi Perry will follow the game.
PHOTO: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services.
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