THIBODAUX, La. – The Nicholls State University baseball program scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning to take an 8-7 series-clinching victory over the University of New Orleans Sunday afternoon on Ben Meyer Diamond at Ray E. Didier Field.
The Colonels now sit at 28-25 overall and 14-13 in the Southland Conference. Nicholls is currently in seventh place with one series left at UCA. The Colonels own head-to-head tiebreakers over sixth-place Lamar (15-12 SLC), eighth-place Stephen F. Austin (14-13) and ninth-place UNO (13-14).
This victory also marked Nicholls head baseball coach Seth Thibodeaux’s 200th win as the Colonels skipper.
“I am really proud of our guys handling an adverse situation,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s always special when our guys fight hard. I’m really proud of the efforts of our players. There were a lot of big plays made today – a lot of plays made in the outfield and a lot of big hits in some key moments. I just really enjoy coaching this baseball team and watching them get better as the season goes on.”
Junior starting pitcher Alex Ernestine tossed a season-high 7.0 innings, allowing just six hits and one earned run. The lefty struck out three and walked two. Ernestine did not allow a lead-off hit in the final four innings of his outing.
“As the game goes on, my stuff just gets better,” said Ernestine. “I don’t know if it’s my body or what, but I just feel better as the game goes on and once I get into that tempo and rhythm.”
Five Colonels batters finished with multiple hits including senior designated hitter Juan Givan and sophomore Ethan Valdez who contributed three apiece.
Nicholls entered the eighth inning with a 7-1 advantage, but the Privateers (25-25-1) used back-to-back doubles in the eighth and three hits and two walks in the ninth to score three runs in each frame, tying the game at seven.
Junior relief pitcher Kyle Craft entered with runners on first and second and one out in the top of the ninth and retired the next two hitters in just six pitches to limit the damage.
Senior outfielder Quade Smith singled to right field to commence the bottom of the ninth. Fellow senior catcher Alex Tucker then walked on four pitches. Sophomore second baseman Ethan Valdez laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Tucker and Smith to second and third, respectively.
UNO planned to intentionally walk junior outfielder Gavin Wehby, but Jarred Taylor’s first attempt got beyond the catcher, allowing Smith to come home as the game-winning run.
“My four at-bats before [the ninth] I kind of struggled at the plate. For me to come through in the ninth inning, I just had to tell myself to relax, brush off the previous at-bats and get on base for my team,” said Smith
The Colonels have one conference series remaining at UCA; Game 1 between the two teams is set for Thursday at 6 p.m.