Lady Demons grind out pair of wins to finish NHDDC weekend

After two straight run-rule wins to start the weekend, Northwestern State had to battle its way through one game and before riding another big offensive inning to victory in the second. 

Bronte Rhoden and Maggie Darr combined to outduel Arkansas-Pine Bluff pitcher Sydney Green 1-0 in the first game of the final day of the NHDDC Lady Demon Classic. In the second, the Lady Demons (11-7) used a five-run first inning to jump on Jackson State early and pick up a 6-1 win to close the weekend. 

NSU 1, UAPB 0 

While the players were up and going for the 10 a.m. start to the final day of NSU’s home tournament, after two straight run-rule wins on the previous two days, the bats were a little tired against the Golden Lions. 

A Taylor Williams infield single with one out in the second was the only NSU hit through the first five innings of the game with UAPB. The Demons had base runners in every inning but one during that time thanks to a handful of walks, but were unable to do anything with them. 

UAPB’s Sydney Green had her way with the NSU lineup through the majority of the day, but fortunately for the Demons, they have some quality arms on their side as well. 

Senior Bronte Rhoden set the tone for the day with four perfect innings to start the day, retiring the first 12 batters she faced, needing just 30 pitches to make her way one time through the Lion batting order.  

Rhoden struck out the side in order to start the game, added two more Ks to finish the third and ended the day with half of NSU’s season-best 12 strikeouts on the day. 

A walk ended Rhoden’s perfection to start the fifth and a single through the left side took the no-hitter away three pitches later, creating the first real scoring threat of the game for either team with two on and no out. 

Enter Maggie Darr. 

After a relatively easy five-inning complete game the night before, the lanky righty stepped into the circle ready to deal. Three straight strikeouts slammed the door on any thoughts of a Lion rally. 

She had to navigate through a jam of her own creation to keep the game scoreless in the sixth after hitting the first two batters of the inning. A sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out, and the Southland Conference’s top strikeout pitcher added to her total with two more Ks on six pitches to strand to more runners and give NSU enough momentum heading to the bottom of the inning. 

The speed of Bailie Ragsdale forced the issue right away in the bottom of the sixth as she picked up NSU’s second hit of the day, and forced a wild throw to first allowing her to reach second with no out. After loading the bases Keely Dubois cashed in the effort with a sacrifice fly to right to put the Demons up 1-0. 

Darr retired the side in order in the seventh, ending the game with her sixth strikeout in 11 batters faced in the win. She struck out five of her six with the go-ahead run in scoring position in the fifth and sixth innings. 

Rhoden took a hard-luck no decision after allowing just one hit in four innings of work with six strikeouts. Darr got her sixth win of the season throwing the three no-hit innings. 

NSU 6, Jackson State 1 

The Demons found themselves in some early trouble in the first inning of the weekend finale against Jackson State with a bases loaded, one out scenario. Starter Ryleigh Denton was able to avoid any damage with a soft grounder to second and one back to herself in the circle to keep the Tigers off the board. 

In the bottom of the inning, NSU had one of its signature, at least for this weekend, offensive innings thanks to a little help from the Tigers. 

The first seven batters of the game reached base for NSU thanks to four hits, two walks and an error, which it took full advantage of with five runs. The Demons scored all five runs in the span of four batters after loading the bases with no out. 

Ragsdale came in on a passed ball to open the scoring stretch, followed by RBI singles from Kat Marshall and Keely Dubois. A throwing error on a Williams ball to third allowed the fourth run to score and another throwing mistake as Williams stole second brought in the fifth. 

It was the third time in four games this weekend NSU scored five or more runs in a single inning. 

“I feel like there is way less pressure when your team is doing good at the plate,” Makenzie Chaffin said who drew a walk in the first-inning rally. “It’s definitely momentum gained and the dugout gets really loud and you can feel your whole team behind you in the box. I love hearing them scream my name when I’m up to bat. It makes me feel good knowing they’re all behind me.” 

The big inning carried the Demons through the rest of the game as they were unable to add on to their lead with runners on in each of the next two innings. The Tigers cut into the lead slightly in the bottom of the fourth after loading the bases again with one out and getting an RBI single up the middle. 

Chaffin made sure the lead did not dip any lower by taking the second pitch of her at bat to start the bottom of the inning over the right field wall for her second home run in two days. 

“We’ve been working really hard on our swings all fall and all preseason, so I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really trusting my swing and I’m going in the box just looking for a pitch I want to hit,” Chaffin said. “When they put it there I just trust my swing and let it happen.” 

The Demons left two runners on in that inning and the next, keeping them from completing their third run-rule win of the weekend. 

Denton picked up her second win as a Demon allowing one run on five hits with five strikeouts. Kenzie Seely got her first save of the year by throwing the final three innings giving up just two hits and walking one. 

Chaffin went 3-for-3 in the game with an RBI and two runs scored while Dubois was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.