Demons drop series opener to New Orleans

NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State baseball team had its chances to take control of Thursday night’s Southland Conference series opener against New Orleans.

While the Demons could not do so, the Privateers capitalized on their late-game opportunity, posting a three-run seventh inning to take a 6-4 series-opening win at Brown-Stroud Field.

“You’ve got to put up a crooked number,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We couldn’t capitalize with hits. Their guy (Tyler LeBlanc) was really good. He had really good stuff. You’ve got to get to him with mistakes and walks, but we’ve got to do a better job of stringing together some hits.”

Northwestern State (24-25, 11-11) had its opportunities early against LeBlanc for the second time this season.

The Privateers left-hander lasted four innings against NSU on March 25, throwing 101 pitches. The Demons again elevated LeBlanc’s pitch count, forcing him to throw 115 pitches in 5 1-3 innings Thursday night.

The Demons stranded eight runners against LeBlanc in the first four innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the second inning after Larson Fontenot scored on a throwing error to give the Demons a 1-0 lead.

LeBlanc stranded four runners in scoring position in the first four innings, allowing New Orleans (26-20, 12-10) to remain close and take the lead on a pair of sixth-inning solo home runs by Miguel Useche and Jeissy DeLaCruz.

The two-run sixth was the lone multi-run inning against left-hander Cal Carver, who left after allowing three earned runs in 6 1-3 innings, turning things over to Gus Collins (3-1) after Isaac Williams’ one-out hustle double in the seventh.

“He pitched great,” Barbier said. “Six and a third, no walks. He threw like he does most every Friday night. When we come in there in the seventh, we’ve got to shut the door. There are too many times we let that inning get away from us. I thought Gus pitched really well after those couple of hitters.”

Kasten Furr welcomed Collins with a game-tying RBI single and, after a walk to Amani Larry, the Privateers took the lead on a two-base wild pitch that scored Furr from second and a passed ball that scored Larry.

Meanwhile, the Demons were unable to solve Privateers reliever Jack Williams (6-1) for the second time this season.

Williams earned his second win against Northwestern State in 2022, tossing 3 2-3 hitless innings of scoreless relief with four strikeouts. In two games against the Demons this season, Williams has thrown 8 2-3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out eight.

With the loss, the Demons fell two games behind conference co-leaders McNeese and Southeastern, both of whom won Thursday, with two games to play in the conference season. NSU remains mathematically alive for a share of the Southland Conference regular-season championship entering the final two games of league play.

The series continues Friday night at 6:30 as right-hander Johnathan Harmon (5-5, 3.04) takes the mound for Northwestern State against New Orleans right-hander Beau Blanchard (1-0, 5.00).

New Orleans 6, Northwestern State 4
UNO 001 002 300 – 6 10 5
NSU 011 002 000 – 4 7 2

W – Jack Williams (6-1). L – Gus Collins (3-1). 2B – UNO, Amani Larry, Isaac Williams. NSU, Jeffrey Elkins. HR – UNO, Miguel Useche, Jeissy DeLaCruz. Highlights: UNO, Kasten Furr 2-5, RBI; Pearce Howard 2-4, RBI. NSU, Daunte Stuart 2-4.
Records: New Orleans 26-20, 12-10; Northwestern State 24-25, 11-11.

Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services