Demons drop home finale to UNO, earn No. 5 seed in SLC Tournament

The Northwestern State baseball team fell down early Saturday afternoon in its 2022 home finale before one swing from a senior brought the Demons to life.

Unfortunately for NSU, its mid-game push was answered by New Orleans’ late-game power surge as the Privateers pulled away for an 11-4 Southland Conference victory at Brown-Stroud Field.

Northwestern State (25-26, 12-12) will be the No. 5 seed in next weekend’s Southland Conference Tournament while New Orleans (27-21, 13-11) earned a split of the six-game season series and will be the No. 3 seed.

The Demons will travel to McNeese for their half of the two-bracket tournament and will face No. 4 seed Nicholls in Thursday’s 1 p.m. first-round game.

New Orleans touched up NSU starter Drayton Brown (5-6) for two runs in the first inning, extending Brown to 31 pitches in the opening frame. That allowed NSU head coach Bobby Barbier to take Brown out early in the second inning.

“We were going to keep Drayton short anyway,” Barbier said. “We had made the decision to either close him for a game or keep him short. It worked out the way it did.”

Brown left after facing eight batters before fellow sophomore right-hander Alex Makarewich entered and turned in his best outing of the season.

Makarewich spun four shutout innings of relief, allowing just two hits while striking out three.

“Alex was fantastic, which is what he’s capable of and what he has done a few times this year for us,” Barbier said. “Hopefully, that’s something we can build on moving forward. Alex works really, really hard at what he does.”

With Makarewich quieting the Privateers, the door was open for the Demons to try to rally for the second straight game.

Senior catcher Austin Kirkpatrick did his part, drilling Khachadourian’s first pitch of the fifth inning over the left-field wall for his second home run of the season – both coming in the past 13 days.

Kirkpatrick was one of nine Demons who were honored during Senior Day ceremonies ahead of Saturday’s game.

“It was good to see Austin get that one,” Barbier said. “You always pull for those seniors to have good days on their last one here.”

Kirkpatrick’s home run was all the Demons mustered in the fifth, but NSU answered a three-run New Orleans sixth with a pair of runs in their half, cutting the lead back to three.

After senior left-hander Will Hine stranded two of three inherited runners in the eighth, designated hitter Bo Willis drilled a solo home run to left off Caleb Seroski to cap a 4-for-4 day for the sophomore.

During his career-long, seven-game hitting streak, Willis is hitting .500 (14-for-28) with four home runs and 14 RBIs.

“He’s been really good, especially the back half of the year,” Barbier said. “He’s a threat to leave the yard any time. He’s just been a really tough out later in the year. He’s worked hard at his craft and done a good job.”

The Demons return to action Tuesday when they play their final mid-week game of the season at LSU. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.

New Orleans 11, Northwestern State 4
UNO      210 003 014 – 11 13 1
NSU       000 012 010 – 4 7 1
W – Kyle Khachadourian (5-2). L – Drayton Brown (5-6). S – Caleb Seroski (3). 2B – UNO, Tyler Bischke, Andrew Guidry. NSU, Bo Willis, Larson Fontenot. HR – UNO, Kasten Furr (3), Amani Larry (6). NSU, Bo Willis (11), Austin Kirkpatrick (2). Highlights: UNO, Furr 3-5, HR, 2 RBIs; Larry 2-4, HR, 4 RBIs; Andrew Guidry 2-5, 2B; Isaac Williams 3-5. NSU, Willis 4-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBIs.

Records: New Orleans 27-21, 13-11; Northwestern State 25-26, 12-12.

Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services