ABILENE, Texas – Sunday starting pitchers aren’t supposed to do what Cullen McDonald has done in his past two starts.
McDonald spun his second straight complete game Sunday, scattering five hits as Northwestern State won its second straight Southland Conference series with a 6-3 victory at Crutcher Scott Field.
The sophomore right-hander needed just 99 pitches to toss his first career nine-inning complete game and improve to 2-2.
“Every time I turned around, (Caleb Ricca) was running a ball down at short and making a good throw to Dave (Fry),” McDonald said. “Spencer (Goodwin) was getting over on bunts. The outfield, to end the game, T(yler) Smith with the catch and the throw in the eighth. It made my job a lot easier.”
The Demons (20-30, 10-17) got contributions up and down the lineup and in the field to earn their fourth win the past six conference games.
Spencer Goodwin, David Fry, Tyler Smith and Emile Lege each had two hits as NSU tallied 12 hits against Derek Scott (2-2) and three Wildcats relievers.
More importantly, the Demons played error-free baseball behind McDonald, who struck out only one ACU hitter. McDonald needed 77 pitches to toss an eight-inning complete game in a win against Incarnate Word on May 7.
Twice in the late innings, Northwestern State turned to its defense to protect a three-run lead.
After Abilene Christian (13-34, 3-24) pushed across a single run in the seventh inning, freshman shortstop Caleb Ricca made a play deep in the hole to strand a runner at third base.
An inning later, Tyler Smith, who moved from center field to left field, corralled a ball off the wall and threw out Russell Crippen at second base to start the eighth. McDonald built off that and needed just four pitches to face the minimum in the eighth inning.
Smith added a diving catch on a Dalon Farkas line drive to seal the Demons’ fourth complete-game effort of the season.
“Caleb Ricca was tremendous at shortstop all day,” first-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “Tyler Smith at the end – if they get the leadoff hitter on base in the eighth, it’s a whole different game.”
With McDonald in control for most of the game, the Demons didn’t need much offense.
Northwestern State broke through against Scott in the third inning, mixing some small ball with the same patient approach that produced a season-high 12 walks in the series opener Friday night.
After freshmen Emile Lege doubled to open the inning and Ricca singled him to third, Spencer Goodwin (2-for-4) laid down a sacrifice bunt that Scott fielded and threw wildly home to allow the first run of the game to score and Goodwin to take second base.
David Fry drew a walk to load the bases and, one batter later, Matthew Alford drew a bases-loaded walk. Lenni Kunert followed with an RBI fielder’s choice to give the Demons a three-run cushion.
After Crippen homered for the third time this weekend – a two-run shot in the ACU third – McDonald kept the Wildcats off the board until the Demons came up with another three-run inning in the seventh.
Kunert was in the middle of it again, following Alford’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly with a two-run single to give him a career-high three RBIs.
“I thought we had good at-bats,” Barbier said. “I thought we probably should have had some more runs, but we hit some balls hard at guys. Lenni came through with the big hit for us.”
The Demons return to action Tuesday when they travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU. First pitch at Alex Box Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.
Northwestern State 6, Abilene Christian 2
NSU 003 000 300 – 6 12 0
ACU 002 000 100 – 3 5 2
W – Cullen McDonald (2-2). L – Derek Scott (2-2). 2B – NSU, Emile Lege 2; ACU, Dalon Farkas 2. HR – ACU, Russell Crippen (10). Highlights: NSU, Spencer Goodwin 2-4, RBI; Fry 2-3, 2B; Lenni Kunert 3 RBIs; Tyler Smith 2-5; Lege 2-3, 2 2Bs. ACU, Crippen 2-4, HR, 2 RBIs; Farkas 2-4, 2 2Bs.
Records: Northwestern State 20-20, 10-17; Abilene Christian 13-34; 3-24.