Brown’s gem stifles UIW, lifts Demons to series win

Within the Northwestern State baseball team, there are few more competitive subgroups than the Demon starting rotation.

Junior right-hander Drayton Brown provided proof of that Sunday afternoon at Brown-Stroud Field.

Brown followed – and possibly topped — quality starts from Cal Carver on Friday and Alex Makarewich on Saturday with seven innings of shutout baseball while the Northwestern State offense stayed hot, scoring a 10-0, eight-inning Southland Conference series-clinching win against Incarnate Word.

“We’ve been struggling on the mound a little of late,” said Brown, whose seven shutout innings matched his career high for a scoreless outing. “We’ve been competing a little harder. That showed today. My arm felt really good. I’ve been working with (assistant coach) Dan (Hlad). We talked about our game plan before the game and stuck with it.”

It wasn’t hard for Brown (3-5) to stick with what was working as he mixed speeds and his pitches effectively throughout. He scattered four hits – three singles and a double that center fielder Jacob Farrell nearly grabbed after a long run – and struck out five while issuing only one walk.

Brown’s outing followed strong six-inning performances from Carver and Makarewich against a UIW lineup that entered the weekend hitting .293 and averaging 7.1 runs per game. In the three games this weekend, the Demons (21-16, 7-5) limited the Cardinals to a .179 batting average.

Following UIW’s 11-5, 10-inning win Friday night, the Cardinals managed just four runs in the final 17 innings of the series.

Brown was key in limiting UIW’s offensive opportunities.

The Cardinals had just three runners reach scoring position against Brown, who stiffened even more in those situations to hold UIW to an 0-for-4 mark with runners in scoring position.

“It’s no secret that we haven’t pitched it well the last couple of weekends, even when we’ve won two of three,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “They competed. They are a really good offense over there, and it was good conditions to hit all weekend. They came out and competed in the strike zone. We could have tucked our tails after Friday night, but the starters came out and set the tone and the offense has been tremendous the last few weeks – really good one through nine.”

The Demons’ deep lineup started quickly Sunday, taking advantage of a pair of first-inning hit by pitches from former Demon pitcher Micah Berens (2-2), who is in his first season at UIW (22-18, 9-6).

Berens hit Jeffrey Elkins to lead off the game and Daunte Stuart with two outs before Jake Haze, Bo Willis and Gray Rowlett strung together three straight two-out RBI singles. It was the fifth straight game the Demons scored in the first inning – four of which have been multi-run innings.

Northwestern State batted .305 in the weekend series and is hitting .306 as a team through half of its 24-game Southland Conference schedule.

Berens settled in and matched Brown – who saved Berens’ lone win in a Demon uniform against Stephen F. Austin in 2021 – until the fifth inning.

Berens got ahead of freshman Michael Dattalo before a borderline 1-2 pitch went Dattalo’s way to even the count. On the ensuing pitch, Dattalo drilled his fourth home run in the past five games – homering for the second straight day to give NSU a 4-0 lead.

Dattalo finished 3-for-5 and was a triple shy of the cycle for the second straight day.

“We knew (the power) was in there,” Barbier said. “He’s just a professional hitter. There’s nothing more I can say about him. He gives really good at-bats. He hits the ball all over the field. He battles with two strikes. He’s a great teammate. His teammates love him. He’s what you want to model them after.”

After chasing Berens with a pair of runs in the sixth, the Demons poured on against a pair of UIW relievers, scoring twice in the seventh and eighth innings, including Haze’s game-ending, two-run triple that eluded a diving Sterling Sutcliffe in center field.

Dattalo was joined in the Demons’ multi-hit parade by Haze (2-for-4, 3 RBIs), Daunte Stuart (2-for-4, 3B, RBI) and Bailyn Sorensen (2-for-4, RBI).

Northwestern State returns to action Wednesday night at UL Lafayette. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. 

Northwestern State 10, Incarnate Word 0, 8 innings

UIW       000 000 00 – 0 4 0

NSU       300 012 22 – 10 12 0

W – Drayton Brown (3-5). L – Micah Berens (2-2). 2B – UIW, Warren Laster. NSU, Michael Dattalo. 3B – UIW, Cameron Crotte. NSU, Daunte Stuart, Jake Haze. HR – NSU, Dattalo (5). Highlights: NSU, Dattalo 3-5, 2B, HR, RBI; Stuart 2-4, 3B, RBI; Haze 2-4, 3B, 3 RBIs; Bailyn Sorensen 2-4, RBI.

Records: Incarnate Word 22-18, 9-6; Northwestern State 21-16, 7-5.