NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State baseball team battled to force extra innings against No. 16 UL Lafayette on Tuesday night.
Their second push to force at least one more came up just short as the Demons fell to the Ragin’ Cajuns, 8-6, at Brown-Stroud Field.
“We fought,” first-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We did fight late in the game. That’s what I told them. We need to learn to fight a little bit sooner. We’ve done that a couple of times this season. We need to understand there are plays in the game, even when you’re down, that when you let them extend the lead, it’s hard for you to win, even when you’re fighting at the end.”
Through five innings, Cajuns left-hander Hogan Harris stifled that fight, striking out eight and keeping the Demons (3-4) hitless.
Fortunately for Northwestern State, right-hander Dan Hlad was nearly as good, holding the Cajuns (4-3) to one run across five innings.
Making his first start at the Division I level, Hlad tossed five innings of one-run ball, scattering six hits and striking out a career-high four.
Even after the Cajuns began to stretch the lead against the Demons bullpen, the NSU offense slowly arose from its early-evening slumber.
Trailing 3-0, Matt Valdez snapped the Demons’ hitless run with a one-out double off reliever Wyatt Marks in the sixth and scored on a two-base throwing error.
UL Lafayette continued to add on to the lead with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings off the Demons bullpen before Northwestern State returned the favor.
The Demons got a two-out, two-run single from Regan Kaufman to slice the Cajuns’ lead in half.
An inning later, Matt Valdez delivered a two-out, two-run single off All-American closer Dylan Moore to tie the game and force NSU’s second extra-inning game of the season.
“We had some good at-bats against (Moore), and he is tough,” Barbier said. “Give them all the credit. That guy, Harris, they threw to start the game was unbelievable. It was as good a pitching performance as I’ve seen. We’re struggling at the bat, but that wasn’t good medicine for us.”
The 12th inning proved to be a similar dose.
After keeping the Cajuns off the board in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings, Cole Langdon (0-1) opened the 12th with a strikeout before a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a two-base wild pitch gave the Cajuns a 6-5 lead.
Alex Pinero ended Langdon’s night with a two-run home run that gave UL Lafayette enough cushion to survive a run-scoring strikeout and a two-out walk in the bottom of the 12th. The Demons’ chances ended one pitch after Kwan Adkins’ potential game-tying double tailed just foul.
“(Langdon) picked us up,” Barbier said. “He pitched well. That’s the most he’s been extended (3 2-3 innings, 60 pitches). We get the weird wild pitch at the end. He did a great job. I told him he pitched his butt off. We have some injuries in that bullpen, and when you play a 12-inning game after your bullpen’s been depleted on Sunday, it makes it a little tough.”
The Demons start their first road trip of the season Friday, beginning a three-game weekend series at Kansas. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.
No. 16 UL Lafayette 8, Northwestern State 6, 12 innings
ULL 000 012 110 003 – 8 11 2
NSU 000 001 022 001 – 6 6 0
W – Caleb Armstrong (1-0). L – Cole Langdon (0-1). S – Chris Charpentier (1). 2B – ULL, Ishmael Edwards, Todd Lott, Joe Robbins, Kennon Fontenot. NSU, Matt Valdez. HR – ULL, Alex Pinero (1). Highlights: ULL, Brenn Conrad 2-4, RBI; Pinero 2-5, HR, 3 RBIs; Robbins 2-4, 2B, RBI; Fontenot 2-4, 2B, RBI. NSU, Valdez 2-4, 2B, 2 RBIs.
Records: UL Lafayette 4-3; Northwestern State 3-4.