Demons’ late push against Louisiana Tech falls short

NATCHITOCHES – For seven innings Wednesday night, the Northwestern State baseball team made every defensive play.

Twice in the final two innings, the Demons did not, and visiting Louisiana Tech took advantage.

The Bulldogs turned NSU errors in the eighth and ninth innings into two unearned runs and survived a ninth-inning Demon rally to edge Northwestern State, 4-3, at Brown-Stroud Field.

“We didn’t put enough together offensively to allow us to get a lead and to extend it, which makes every little play that much more important,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “Then we screwed up a couple of them. You have to play perfectly when you don’t put enough together offensively.”

For the second time in the two-game season series, the Demons (21-23) had the winning run at the plate with less than two outs in the ninth inning against Louisiana Tech closer Kyle Crigger.

Trailing 4-2 after the Bulldogs (32-15) tallied unearned runs in the eighth and ninth innings, Gabe Colaianni started the NSU ninth with a first-pitch double to right center off Crigger before Jeffrey Elkins drew a walk.

One out later, Bryce Holmes’ double scored Colaianni and put runners on second and third before Crigger escaped with a strikeout and a groundout to strand the tying run at third base.

It was a similar ending for the Demons, who loaded the bases with no outs against Crigger and scored once in a 6-4 loss in Ruston on April 20.

The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead three batters into the game on Steele Netterville’s 12th home run of the season before the Demon pitching staff settled in.

Starter Ethan Francis shook off the home run and started a run of 6 1-3 scoreless innings with a scoreless second before Donovan Ohnoutka worked three scoreless innings of one-hit ball, striking out four.

Freshman right-hander Chase Prestwich relieved Ohnoutka and put up two scoreless innings, using a double play to escape a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth and striking out Tech’s leading hitter, Taylor Young, with the go-ahead run on second base in the seventh.

“Everybody who hit the mound threw the ball well,” Barbier said. “They got the homer, but that guy’s a really good hitter.”

Cameron Taylor (2-1) was in position to continue the Demons’ strong pitching performance, but his throwing error on a potential double-play ball set up the go-ahead run in the eighth and a two-out Gray Rowlett error in the ninth gave the Bulldogs the insurance run they needed.

While the Bulldogs capitalized on the Demons’ late errors, NSU took advantage of a Bulldog miscue to erase its early 2-0 deficit.

With one on and one out in the fifth, second baseman Thaxton Berch booted Austin Kirkpatrick’s potential inning-ending double play ball, putting runners on the corners.

Jake Haze’s RBI single and good baserunning by Kirkpatrick allowed Daunte Stuart to tie the game with a sacrifice fly but starter Jarrett Whorff stranded Haze at third to keep the game tied.

Tanner Knight (1-0), the third of four Bulldog pitchers, worked two scoreless innings, striking out three to earn his first win.

Northwestern State returns to action Friday when the Demons travel to McNeese to open a three-game Southland Conference series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Joe Miller Ballpark.

Louisiana Tech 4, Northwestern State 3
LTU 200 000 011 – 4 7 1
NSU 000 020 001 – 3 6 2

W – Tanner Knight (1-0). L – Cameron Taylor (2-1). S – Kyle Crigger (10). 2B – LT, Philip Matulia. NSU, Gabe Colaianni. HR – LT, Steele Netterville (12). Highlights: LT, Nettervile 2-4, HR, 2 RBIs.
Records: Louisiana Tech 32-15, Northwestern State 21-23.

Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services