Demons awaken late, get past Grambling

GRAMBLING – It took nearly six innings for the Northwestern State baseball team to get its first hit Tuesday night at Grambling.

Once the Demons broke the seal, everything flowed much smoother.

No-hit until the sixth, Northwestern State rebounded with a pivotal two-out rally in that inning and pulled away from the Tigers for an 8-3 win at Wilbert Ellis Field.

“Their guy (Connor Rudy) pitched really well,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “He commanded the ball with multiple pitches, and we didn’t do a very good job against him early in the game. The biggest thing was we answered in the sixth. We gave up the lead. We’re not swinging the bats great, and we get a couple of big two-out hits and some good fortune. Then we extended it in the seventh with the homers.”

Rudy (3-6) kept the Demons (20-20) hitless through 5 2-3 innings before Gabe Colaianni’s clean single to right broke up the no-hit bid and woke up the NSU offense.

After Cameron Parikh was hit by a pitch, freshman catcher Bailyn Sorensen singled to center to tie the game before Rudy uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch. Shortstop Cam Sibley, who played flawless highlight-reel defense, capped the four-run inning with a bad-hop, two-run single that kicked up on his Grambling counterpart, Jarficur Parker.

The Demons’ rally turned the tables on the Tigers (18-22), who stranded eight runners through the first four innings as right-handers Josh Banes and Ethan Francis consistently danced out of traffic on the bases.

Northwestern State’s four-run sixth came moments after Grambling scored three two-out runs off reliever Chase Prestwich (1-3), who earned his first career victory.

Rudy appeared to be on his way to another quick inning before Colaianni’s single gave the Demons the momentum.

Grambling appeared on its way to another two-out rally in the sixth after Dawson Flowers retired the first two hitters he faced before Shemar Page and Trevor Hatton singled.

Hatton tried to take second after his high-chopped single over third baseman Jake Haze’s head. Left fielder Jeffrey Elkins threw out Hatton trying to stretch the hit into a double, capping the inning.

Elkins added to the surge, drilling his eighth home run of the season with one out in the seventh. Freshman first baseman Gray Rowlett followed with his second home run of the season, marking Northwestern State’s second set of back-to-back home runs of the season following Bo Willis’ and Bryce Holmes’ consecutive solo homers at UIW on April 9.

“When (Elkins) goes well for us, we score a lot of runs because he can do so many things,” Barbier said. “He can hit a home run. He can steal a base. He can score on a double from first. Those guys affect the game in many ways.”

For the second straight mid-week game, the Demons closed the game with four scoreless innings after doing so April 20 at Louisiana Tech.

Right-handers Flowers (two innings), Andrew Cossio and Donovan Ohnoutka closed out the Tigers to pull the Demons back to .500.

“We had a bunch of guys hit the mound and compete with multiple pitches in the strike zone,” Barbier said. “That was good to see. Something I need to do a better job of is, when those guys struggle in games, continue to get them work. Hopefully, we can use that and take it into the weekend.”

The Demons return to action Friday when they host Southeastern in the opening game of a three-game Southland Conference series. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Brown-Stroud Field.

Northwestern State 8, Grambling 3

NSU       000 204 200 – 8 6 0

GSU       000 030 000 – 3 10 4

W – Chase Prestwich (1-3). L – Connor Rudy (3-6). HR – NSU, Jeffrey Elkins (8), Gray Rowlett (2). Highlights: GSU, Terry Burrell III 2-5; Jarficur Parker 2-5.

Records: Northwestern State 20-20, Grambling 18-22.

PHOTO: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services