LAKE CHARLES – Kat Marshall’s leadoff moonshot of a home run sparked Northwestern State to a six-run eighth inning explosion on the way to an 8-2 win against Nicholls on the first day of the Southland Conference Tournament.
The win advances NSU into the winner’s bracket of the tournament where it will face Southeastern for the fourth time in less than a week at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting.
After holding the lead from the second inning on, the Lady Demons (25-25) saw their slim two-run advantage slip away in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Marshall took a 2-1 pitch up in the zone out and over the scoreboard in left field for her second home run of the season to ignite an NSU offense that had stagnated over the previous four innings.
“Really just went into the inning just trying to get back on track,” Marshall said. “Maggie (Darr) worked her tail off all game and Kenzie (Seely) came in with a tough situation and got us out of it but they were able to get two runs. My only goal my first at bat in the eighth was to get on base and I just happen to find a pitch I was able to hit hard.”
Her long ball was the first of six hits in the inning for NSU and the first of four extra-base hits. A four-pitch walk put Makenzie Chaffin on base following Marshall’s blast with Laney Roos bringing her around on a triple to dead center field.
With just two triples on the season entering the game, the Demons doubled their total in two batters as Tristin Court hit a sinking liner to right that got bast the right fielder for a second straight three-bagger and a 5-2 NSU lead.
Camryn Ford delivered the third straight hit and RBI, her second of the game in her first postseason action, with a single to left and ended up on third after a throwing error in the outfield.
“The dugout was crazy afterwards,” Marshall said. “That’s the best part of this team. When you do well everyone is happy for you and it makes everyone more amped up and excited. We typically have a pretty loud dugout anyway but when good things are happening like that we let them know.”
With the bases loaded later in the inning Marshall stepped to the plate for the second time and once again delivered for the Demons. An opposite field double brought in two more runs, her third and fourth RBIs of the game, giving the Demons the six-run cushion.
The late-game heroics served as a nice bookend for the dominant pitching performance the Demons got from Maggie Darr to start the game.
Darr faced the minimum through the first four innings, carrying a no-hitter through four and a third before Nicholls got its first hit on a one-out double in the fifth. She pitched 6.0 innings and allowed one earned run on just three hits with four strikeouts, using her defense time and time again throughout the night.
Ford tracked a ball down at the wall in center field early in the game, Keely Dubois turned a 6-3 double play and Ashlyn Walker jumped from behind the plate to grab a pop up while crashing into the net to prevent Nicholls from gaining baserunners or momentum.
“I was really proud of them for coming back and doing what we needed to do to win the game,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “We showed a lot of character, a lot of fight and a lot of heart. We got one down but we’ve got to continue to come out with that same fight and intensity and keep playing pitch-by-pitch Demon softball.”