NATCHITOCHES – Walks helped the Northwestern State baseball team win its midweek game three days ago.
In the series opener against No. 23 McNeese on Friday night at Brown-Stroud Field, walks began the undoing for the Demons in a 13-4 loss to the Southland Conference-leading Cowboys.
“When you walk 10 guys, bad stuff is going to happen,” first-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “I didn’t think we made very competitive pitches all night long, even the non-walks. We didn’t make competitive pitches on the mound. We didn’t play clean defensively.”
The Cowboys (27-10, 17-2) extended their Southland Conference lead to two games thanks to a pair of four-run bursts in the final four innings.
Northwestern State (12-24, 4-12) saw its two-game win streak come to an end.
After falling behind 2-0 after the first two innings, the Demons began to creep back against McNeese starter Austin Sanders (5-2).
David Fry (3-for-4) put the Demons on the board with a sacrifice fly in the third inning, cutting the lead to one.
The next inning, the Demons took advantage of a couple of bunt base hits and some wildness from Sanders to take the lead. Matt Valdez dropped a run-scoring squeeze bunt to tie the game.
With one out, Spencer Goodwin drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Demons ahead 3-2 before Sanders induced an inning-ending double play.
An error set up McNeese’s second-inning run and the Demons’ second defensive miscue put in motion the game-changing fifth inning when the Cowboys scored four unearned runs. The big hit came from Joe Provenzano, who hit a 1-2 fastball from Nathan Jones (3-6) off the center-field wall for a three-run, go-ahead triple.
The Cowboys never trailed from that point.
Even after Fry led off the NSU fifth with a double and scored, the Cowboys answered with a run in the sixth and put the game away with a pair of two-run home runs from Matt Gallier and Shane Selman in the eighth.
After the Demons tagged Sanders for four runs in five innings, the Cowboys bullpen turned in four scoreless innings to seal the victory.
“They’re a really good team,” Barbier said. “Give them credit. They know who they are, and each of their guys play to their strengths. (Sanders) did a good job. He had a little bit of bad fortune on the bunt plays, but he competed and threw strikes. That’s why he’s one of the better guys in the league.”
The series continues Saturday with a 2 p.m. matchup of right-handed pitchers. The Demons will send senior right-hander Evan Tidwell (1-5, 6.39) against McNeese right-hander Rhett Deaton (6-0, 2.44).
McNeese 13, Northwestern State 4
McNeese 110 040 042 – 13 14 0
NSU 001 210 000 – 4 10 2
W – Austin Sanders (5-2). L – Nathan Jones (3-6). 2B – McNeese, Robbie Podorsky. NSU, David Fry. 3B – McNeese, Joe Provenzano; Shane Selman. HR – McNeese, Matt Gallier (11); Shane Selman (8). Highlights: McNeese, Podorsky 3-6, 2B; Will Fox 2-5; Provenzano 2-4, 3B, 4 RBIs; Selman 3-6, 3B, HR, 5 RBIs. NSU, Fry 3-4, 2B, RBI; Kelsey Richard 2-4.
Records: McNeese 27-10, 10-2; Northwestern State 12-24, 4-12.