Demons season ends as comeback against UIW falls short

LAKE CHARLES – The Northwestern State baseball team’s season came to an end in a flurry of home runs.

Incarnate Word’s Alec Carr hit three of his team’s Southland Conference Tournament-record-tying six home runs – three of which came leading off innings – giving the Cardinals enough of a cushion to withstand a furious Demon rally and hold off for a 14-10 elimination-game win at Joe Miller Ballpark on Friday afternoon.

“We fought hard,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “There were a couple of plays in the game – we lose the ball with the bases loaded on a pop up to left field and we get hit with a ball with the bases loaded – if those two plays go the way they go 90 percent of the time, we’re looking to extend the lead in the ninth. We just didn’t play well enough to win.”

The Demons (25-29) trailed by 11 entering the seventh inning after Carr’s third home run of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning and appeared headed for a second straight run-rule loss in an elimination game.

A flurry of pinch hitters kept Northwestern State alive.

Bryce Holmes led off the seventh with a single to center before Cameron Parikh connected on a pinch-hit, two-run home run – the Demons’ first pinch-hit blast since Austin Stegall connected on a solo home run off the bench at New Orleans on May 19, 2018.

Parikh’s second home run of the season was good for NSU’s first multi-run inning of the game after scratching out single runs in the first, third and fourth innings.

While the Demons waited to tally a multi-run inning, the Cardinals (20-30) did so on three occasions, blowing the game open with consecutive four-run innings in the fourth and fifth.

The bases-loaded swing plays Barbier referenced came in those innings.

With two outs in the fourth, Gus Collins relieved Cameron Taylor and got a high pop fly to shallow left off the bat of Daniel Calabrese that fell between a pair of Demon defenders, scoring all three runs and giving the Cardinals a 9-3 lead.

Northwestern State was in position to answer in the fifth, driving starter Chandler David from the game after three walks loaded the bases with two outs.

Cam Sibley’s hard-hit grounder to the right side off reliever Kaddin Mikulik (1-1) appeared headed for right field to score at least one run and maybe two. However, the ball hit a Demon base runner, ending the inning and keeping UIW in control.

The Cardinals built their lead on the strength of six home runs in the first six innings – three by Carr, who tied the tournament’s single-game individual record.

UIW led off the first three innings with home runs against right-hander Johnathan Harmon (5-6), who lasted 2 1-3 innings, surrendering nine hits and five runs.

After Parikh kept the game alive, the Demons were efficient in a four-run eighth, scoring their runs on an RBI single by Gabe Colaianni — who enjoyed a career-best four-hit day, driving in three runs – a bases-loaded hit by pitch by Larson Fontenot and a two-run single by Miguel Vega.

Dawson Flowers stranded the bases loaded in the eighth, giving the Demons a last gasp in the ninth.

Senior shortstop Cam Sibley drew a leadoff walk before Jake Haze singled. Sibley scored on Coalainni’s second RBI single of the game before reliever Steve Hayward retired the final two Demons to give UIW its fourth win against NSU this season.

“The last one’s always hard,” Barbier said. “We appreciate the seniors. They’ve done a lot for this program in their time here – some of them an extended time because of COVID. The game, right now that it’s over, needs to be about them and what they’ve done for our school.”

Incarnate Word 14, Northwestern State 10
NSU 101 100 241 – 10 14 0
UIW 131 441 00x – 14 17 0
W – Kaddin Mikulik (1-1). L – Johnathan Harmon (5-6). 2B – NSU, Gabe Colaianni 2, Jeffrey Elkins. UIW, Nixon Brannon, Daniel Calabrese. HR – NSU, Cameron Parikh (2). UIW, Ridge Rogers (6), Alec Carr 3 (8), Roberto Gonzalez (5), Hernan Yanez (4). Highlights: NSU, Jake Haze 2-4; Gabe Colaianni 4-6, 2 2Bs, 3 RBIs; Cam Sibley 2-3. UIW, Carr 4-5, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs; Gonzalez 2-3, HR, RBI; Yanez 3-4, HR, 3 RBIs; Brannan 2-5, 2B, 2 RBIs; Calabrese 2-5, 2B, 3 RBIs.
Records: Northwestern State 25-29, Incarnate Word 20-30.

Photo: Leighton Chamblee/McNeese Athletics