HAMMOND – The one-run game has not been kind to the Northwestern State baseball team in recent weeks.
Despite showing a healthy dose of bounce-back ability, the Demons were unable to shake off their tight-game struggles, falling 3-2 to Southeastern Louisiana on Friday night at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said first-year head coach Bobby Barbier, whose team dropped its third one-run decision in the past eight games. “The ball was flying really well, and they got three solo homers. We had more baserunners than they did. They just drove in more with the big fly. You’ve got to get the big hit. We stung some balls that didn’t go through. I was pleased with the way we played today.
“The outcome wasn’t good, and it stings a little more when the outcome hasn’t been good lately. Outwardly, the appearance of how we played was better.”
Northwestern State (10-23, 3-11) outhit Southeastern Louisiana, 8-5, but left 10 runners on base, including the tying run in the ninth inning.
The Lions (22-12, 10-7) made the most of their five hits, using solo home runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to account for all their scoring.
The Demons used a pair of RBIs from catcher Kelsey Richard to take a 2-0 lead. Richard drove in the first run with a second-inning sacrifice fly before taking Gaconi deep over the left-field foul pole for his first home run of the season in the fourth.
Richard’s home run staked Evan Tidwell (1-5) to a two-run lead before Ryan Byers’ two-out solo home run in the fourth inning awakened Southeastern Louisiana.
Tidwell retired the first two batters of the fourth before Byers’ opposite-field home run to right. An inning later, the same pattern played out.
Tidwell sat down the first two Lions before Drew Avans pulled a game-tying home run to right field.
Carson Crites’ leadoff home run to left field in the sixth provided Southeastern Louisiana with the game-winning margin.
Northwestern State put a runner aboard in each of the final three innings but were unable to convert.
David Fry (2-for-5) had a two-out seventh-inning single to finish Gaconi (3-3) but was stranded at first.
Matthew Alford (3-for-4) led off the eighth inning with a single, but the Demons could not move pinch runner Miller Parker off first base.
After Demons reliever John Carter Sanner stranded runners on second and third in the eighth, Regan Kaufman gave NSU late life with a two-out single off Evan Hileman, who worked the final two innings to earn his third save.
Fry drove a Hileman fastball deep to right field with two outs in the ninth only to see it fall short of the warning track as the wind died down.
“They’re still fighting,” Barbier said. “We’ve just got to find a way to turn this thing around and get it back in the right column.”
The series concludes at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Demons will send sophomore right-hander Austin Reich (1-1, 6.75) to the mound against Southeastern Louisiana right-hander Carlisle Koestler (1-2, 5.45).
Southeastern Louisiana 3, Northwestern State 2
NSU 010 100 000 – 2 8 1
SLU 000 111 00x – 3 5 1
W – Corey Gaconi (3-3). L – Evan Tidwell (1-5). S – Evan Hileman (3). 2B – NSU, David Fry. SLU, Drew Avans. HR – NSU, Kelsey Richard (1). SLU, Drew Avans (2), Ryan Byers (5), Carson Crites (7). Highlights: NSU, Fry 2-5, 2B; Matthew Alford 3-4; Richard HR, 2 RBIs. SLU, Avans 2-3, 2B, HR, RBI; Byers 2-3, HR, RBI.
Records: Northwestern State 10-23, 3-11; Southeastern Louisiana 22-12, 10-7.