Demon pitching stifles Little Rock in four-hit shutout

The Northwestern State baseball team collected its third shutout in its past six games Saturday afternoon, but this one was put together differently.

Four Demon right-handed pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts and Northwestern State’s offense worked double-digit walks for the second straight game in a 5-0 win against visiting Little Rock at Brown-Stroud Field.

“Good pitching doesn’t slump,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “It’s the ultimate momentum changer. On the weekend, it’s a momentum gatherer and grabber. Alex (Makarewich) has really come into his own. They did a really good job of fighting him, and he kept shoving it in there.

“Pitch count got him unfortunately before he could get through the fifth, but the guys behind him – Chase Prestwich hadn’t done that this year, pitch out of the bullpen after making a starter. We wanted to transition him into the weekend. We pitched it well, played good defense and had some key at-bats in there.”

Makarewich struck out eight in four shutout innings but the Trojans (9-7) drove up his pitch count, forcing the Demons (12-6) to go to the bullpen.

Enter Chase Prestwich, a sophomore right-hander who has flourished as the Demons’ mid-week starter this season.

Prestwich (4-0) kept the strikeouts coming, fanning six in two scoreless innings to earn his second win of the week. His two hitless innings set the table for fellow right-handers Dawson Flowers (2 IP, 4 strikeouts) and Tyler Bryan (1 IP, one strikeout) to finish off the four-hitter.

The trio of Demon relievers held Little Rock hitless and allowed just two runners to reach in five innings. A Prestwich walk and a wild pitch on a third strike accounted for the Trojans’ only runners from the fourth inning on.

“Alex really set the tone, and the energy was great today,” said Prestwich, who worked five innings of one-run ball to beat ULM on Tuesday. “I just capitalized on it.”

The quartet of Demon pitchers made sure the Trojans could not capitalize on their nine base runners with Makarewich setting the tone from the first inning.

Luke Pectol led off the game with a loud double to center field and, two batters later, Nico Baumbauch singled through the right side to put runners on the corners with one out. Makarewich calmly struck out Skyler Trevino, who hit a two-run home run in Friday night’s game, and got Ty Rhoades on a called third strike to scuttle the threat.

Makarewich also capped the second and third innings by striking out Little Rock hitters with runners in scoring position.

The NSU offense exercised patience against Trojan starter Jackson Wells (2-1), who came in with a 0.42 ERA.

After facing the minimum in the opening inning, Wells lost command in the second, walking four straight hitters and unloading a run-scoring wild pitch to give the Demons a 1-0 lead.

NSU added two more runs in the third, highlighted by Gabe Colaianni’s RBI double. Those runs were more than enough for the NSU pitching staff, but the Demons added single runs in the sixth on another run-scoring wild pitch and in the eighth on Michael Dattalo’s RBI double that scored Daunte Stuart from first base.

“The game rewards guys who play hard and guys who are consistent and passionate about it without getting too emotional,” Barbier said. “It was a normal fly ball to right field, and 90 percent of players put their head down and don’t worry about it, but (Stuart) busted his tail and got us an extra run that allowed us to get Tyler (Bryan) in the game. We were thinking if we got the lead to five, we’d get Tyler in and you saw what he did today.”

Dattalo and Jeffrey Elkins each had two hits, combining for half of NSU’s total. The Demons drew 11 walks off three Little Rock pitchers and have collected 26 in the first two games of the series.

The series concludes with a 1 p.m. Sunday matchup. NSU will send right-hander Drayton Brown (1-2, 5.16) to the mound against Little Rock right-hander Preston Davis (1-1, 4.50).

Northwestern State 5, Little Rock 0

LR           000 000 000 – 0 4 2

NSU       012 001 01x – 5 8 0

W – Chase Prestwich (4-0). L – Jackson Wells (2-1). 2B – LR, Luke Pectol. NSU, Michael Dattalo, Gabe Colaianni. Highlights: LR, Nico Baumbauch 2-4. NSU, Jeffrey Elkins 2-5; Dattalo 2-2, 2B, RBI.

Records: Little Rock 9-7, Northwestern State 12-6.