CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Northwestern State baseball team knew there were plenty of hits at Chapman Field.
The Demons seemingly found them all Sunday afternoon.
Down early, the NSU offense roared back, establishing a season high in hits as the Demons routed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 17-8 to salvage the final game of the Southland Conference series.
“I think response is a good word – they responded,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “It was a big game today. It didn’t go our way early. We had the pop-up homer to right and the one that’s 30 feet foul that blows fair. It didn’t seem like it would be our day. I’m proud of them to keep fighting and to stick their nose in there. Drayton (Brown), too. He could have folded his tent. He’s got four runs when he had none, and he kept fighting on the mound.”
The Demons (25-20, 10-8) took a 1-0 first-inning lead that was erased on Leo Markotic’s wind-aided, three-run home run to right field in the bottom of the first.
After Chance Reisdorph’s solo home run to lead off the fourth, the Demons answered with a sacrifice fly from Jake Haze and an RBI single from Bo Willis in the third inning to cut the lead to one.
Brown (4-6) gave the Demons a pivotal shutdown inning in the third before Northwestern State began its offensive assault on the Islander bullpen.
Michael Dattalo’s two-run, inside-the-park home run with two outs in the fourth started a three-run inning – one of four straight multi-run frames for the Demons. Dattalo drilled a ball deep to left that Islander left fielder Cole Modgling could not corral on a dive.
Modgling was injured on the play and the carom allowed Reese Lipoma, who was on first, and Dattalo to score standing up. The blast highlighted a 4-for-4 day for Dattalo, who drove in a career-high four runs and raised his batting average to .395.
“I thought I hit it well, but with the wind, I wasn’t sure,” Dattalo said. “When it hit the wall and I saw the guy on the ground, I was thinking three, but he stayed down. I got lucky and made it all around. I was breathing pretty heavy. There was a lot of water after that.”
Brown and a trio of right-handed relievers – Dawson Flowers, Kyle Froehlich and Ethan Francis – finished off the Islanders, allowing only one earned run after the fourth inning.
“He kept fighting on the mound,” Barbier said of Brown. “The relievers came in and did a really good job. It was a good team win, and I’m really proud of our guys having good at-bat after good at-bat.”
Those good at-bats produced NSU’s first 20-hit game since posting that number against Lamar on March 15, 2022.
The first six hitters in the Demon order combined to go 18-for-30 with 15 of NSU’s 17 RBIs. The win allowed the Demons to stay even with the Islanders (22-25, 10-8) in the Southland standings with six games to play.
Four Demons produced multiple-RBI days, led by a season-high five RBIs from Bo Willis (3-for-5). Sunday’s offensive outburst also saw first-time starter Hayden Knotts drive in a pair of runs and Reese Lipoma (2-for-4) notch the first multi-hit game of his career.
“We got two guys in – Hayden and Reese – who hadn’t been in there, and I thought they both had really good days,” Barbier said. “It was good to see those guys play well. (Lipoma) made a really nice play against the wall after getting a good jump. He played really, really well. It’s what we’ve seen in practice, so we know he can do it, but it was really good to see in a game.”
The Demons return to action Tuesday when they face LSU in Baton Rouge. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium.
Northwestern State 17, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 8
NSU 102 343 040 – 17 20 2
AMCC 310 120 010 – 8 8 3
W – Drayton Brown (4-6). L – Austin Dean (2-2). 2B – NSU, Jeffrey Elkins, Jake Haze, Bo Willis. AMCC, Christian Smith-Johnson 2, Tre Jones. HR – NSU, Michael Dattalo (7). AMCC, Leo Markotic (3), Chance Reisdorph (2). Highlights: NSU, Elkins 2-6, 2B; Gabe Colaianni 3-6, 2 RBIs; Dattalo 4-4, HR, 4 RBIs; Daunte Stuart 3-5, RBI; Haze 3-4, 2B, 3 RBIs; Willis 3-5, 2B, 5 RBIs; Reese Lipoma 2-4. AMCC, Max Puls 2-5, RBI; Smith-Johnson 3-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs.
Records: Northwestern State 25-20, 10-8; Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 22-25, 10-8.