Elkins’ record-breaking home run sets tone for win against Nicholls

In a game that started more than four hours later than its originally scheduled time, Jeffrey Elkins wasted no time making history Saturday night.

Elkins homered on the first pitch of the game and his teammates made sure that magical moment came in a victory as the Demons clinched their Southland Conference series against Nicholls with a 7-4 win at Brown-Stroud Field.

“I went up with the approach we worked on all week,” said Elkins, who drilled his fourth leadoff home run of the season and the second time he did so on the first pitch of the game. “I just got the pitch I wanted. I didn’t expect it to go out, so that was a good surprise.”

Elkins’ 32nd career home run put Northwestern State (23-17, 9-5) on a path to building another early lead against Nicholls (23-18, 8-6), which came into the weekend as the Southland Conference leaders.

Daunte Stuart’s RBI groundout snapped the 1-all tie and gave right-hander Alex Makarewich (5-3) an early lead that the Demon starter made stand up.

Following Nicholls’ opening-inning run, Makarewich kept the Colonels off the scoreboard until Gerardo Villareal’s two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning. By that time, the Demons were up 7-1 courtesy of a five-run third inning that started with Elkins’ leadoff single off Michael Quevedo (3-1).

Jake Haze had the biggest swing of the inning, connecting on a two-run double that drove in the third and fourth runs of the inning and knocked reliever Tyler Theriot from the game after just two batters.

“We’ve seen Alex scuffle in the first sometimes and not get it back and get deeper into games,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “He did that today and was dominant for a few innings against a really good offense with the wind howling out.”

Makarewich settled in and gave the Demons their fifth straight quality start in conference play, working around six walks to allow three earned runs in six innings while throwing a career-high 109 pitches.

Gus Collins followed Makarewich with two sharp innings, including a 1-2-3 seventh inning that marked the first time in the series where the Colonels were held without a base runner in an inning.

Collins hit Wes Toups with a pitch to lead off the ninth before Kyle Froehlich entered and retired the next three Colonels on nine pitches to earn his sixth save and second in as many days.

“Once you shake that rust off, I think that second day feels better,” said Froehlich, who needed 15 pitches to save Friday night’s win. “I’m one of those guys who likes throwing through a little soreness. It’s a ton of fun. We’ve played some really good ball games the last couple of days. What more could you ask for?”

For Elkins, the start to Saturday’s game broke a school record that had stood since 1974 when Daryl Woods connected on his 31st career home run. Former Demon All-American David Fry tied the mark in dramatic fashion – hitting the go-ahead home run in the 2018 Southland Conference Tournament championship game that sealed NSU’s first tournament crown.

Elkins’ 32nd home run came in his 198th game and his 692nd at-bat in an NSU uniform and helped clinch the Demons’ fourth conference series win in the first five weeks of league play. It came three days after he tied the record with a seventh-inning home run in his hometown of Lafayette.

“It wasn’t a big deal to me until it started to come up on the last couple (home runs),” Elkins said. “To tie it in Lafayette and break it tonight is special. I’m happy it happened, and I’m ready to hit some more.”

Northwestern State 7, Nicholls 4

NICH     100 021 000 – 4 5 0

NSU       205 000 00x – 7 8 2

W – Alex Makarewich (5-3). L – Michael Quevedo (3-1). S – Kyle Froehlich (6). 2B – NSU, Jake Haze. HR – NICH, Gerardo Villarreal (3). NSU, Jeffrey Elkins (8). Highlights: NICH, Villareal 2-4, HR, 2 RBIs. NSU, Elkins 2-3, HR, RBI; Michael Dattalo 2-2.

Records: Nicholls 23-18, 8-6; Northwestern State 23-17, 9-5.