Softball — Northwestern State rebounds from grueling loss to blank Abilene Christian in second game

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NATCHITOCHES – Senior Brittney Jones said she’s never seen a team want to win as badly as Northwestern State after the Lady Demons lost a marathon, 13-inning game 6-5 to Abilene Christian in Saturday’s first game.

NSU dusted itself off and shut out ACU 5-0 with a gem from Mikayla Brown.

The Lady Demons (11-18-1, 1-5 Southland Conference) avoided a second sweep against one of the league’s best teams with the win as NSU prepares for a Wednesday game at Louisiana Tech and a road series at Texas A&M Corpus Christi beginning Friday.

“I haven’t seen a team want it so bad in a game, and I was in tears every time we didn’t win in extra innings (in the first game),” said Jones, who drove in three combined runs. “I could see the fight and the want.

“We got our butts chewed for not winning because we should have, and we came out the second game and did everything (the coaches) asked us to. Everybody bought in, and it was great.”

ACU (15-13, 5-1 SLC) won the series with the 6-5 win after a 4-1 victory Friday.

NSU 5, Abilene Christian 0
Redshirt sophomore Mikayla Brown (6-8) tossed her third shutout of the season and first in conference play in the second game.

The Deville native scattered five hits and struck out six as she lowered her season ERA to 3.99.
The win is Brown’s second straight in as many starts, but she wanted to make up for a relief appearance Friday in which she allowed three runs in one inning.

“I went in with a different mindset than (Friday),” Brown said. “I was just focusing on spinning, not throwing or overthrowing.

“I was just relaxing and throwing. It’s different every game for me coming back from my (ACL injury), but I think I’m moving forward. I’m gaining more confidence in my knee, and my defense is backing me up saying get us some ground balls, so it’s me not trying to strike everybody out.”

Brown retired 11 of the first 12 batters she faced and stranded a combined three runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh innings when the Wildcats did put multiple runners on.

Freshman catcher Emma Hawthorne (3-for-3 and four hits total) launched the Lady Demon offense with her two-run home run with two outs in the fourth inning. Hawthorne’s fourth homer of the season scored Jordan Rains (2-for-3).

NSU plated two more runs for a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning. Brittney Jones drove in a run before Kaylee Isenburg singled in a second run. Sidney Salmans and Julie Rawls (3-for-3, 1 run, 1 RBI) led off the inning with singles and scored.

Abilene Christian starter Hannah Null (5-10) allowed four runs on eight hits in the loss.

With reliever Sidney Holman in, Rawls singled in pinch runner Elise Vincent for the final run.

“We needed to adjust at the plate from the first game … and the girls came out and played well,” Pickett said. “Brown threw a great game and bounced back from yesterday, and two of the freshmen (Hawthorne and Rawls) stepped up and got us some confidence to let us get out in front.

“Brown was really attacking the zone, and we moved runners with some bunts and ground balls, scoring runs to put some pressure on them. I’m really proud of these girls showing character after bouncing back from the heartbreaker to get this last one.”

ACU 6, NSU 5 (13)
Sophomore pitcher Katelyn Boles threw 246 pitches and allowed just one earned run in an epic 13-inning game, but the Lady Demons couldn’t find an answer in the final inning as Abilene Christian clinched the series Saturday in the first game.

Boles allowed three runs (one earned) in regulation before ACU brought home their international tie-breaker runner in three of the five extra innings (not credited as earned runs). Boles (3-7) finished with six runs (one earned) on nine hits with four walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts in 13 innings.
ACU’s Alli Spivey singled in the go-ahead run in the 13th, and NSU left their tie-breaking runner on third base in the final inning.

NSU had a golden opportunity to win in the 12th inning when a Kellye Kincannon walk and Brittney Jones fielder’s choice loaded the bases with no outs. After one pop up, Spivey caught a Jordan Rains fly ball in the middle of right field and threw home to catch Hayley Barbazon tagging up.

“We had way too many pop ups with three opportunities to win that game with less than two outs and a runner in scoring position,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “They’ve got great pitchers, but we saw them yesterday and we needed better adjustments.

“Boles threw a great game. She really gave us a chance to win both games because ACU went to their second pitcher (Holman) earlier than they wanted and then the game went (13 innings). Boles lasting the whole game meant our staff was fresher in the second game, which is huge with (Micaela Bouvier) being sick this weekend.”

Kaylee Isenburg and Emma Hawthorne plated runs in the bottom of the 10th and 11th innings to answer ACU runs and extend the game.

Natchitoches native Madelyn Matt scored on Hawthorne’s single, which ricocheted off third baseman Casey-May Huff (2-for-5) to allow Matt to score from second base in the 11th inning.

Huff provided ACU’s 10th-inning RBI before leadoff hitter Taylor Brown (4-for-7) tripled in a run with one out.
ACU reliever Sidney Holman (10-3) pitched the final 8 1-3 innings, giving up just three hits and two team unearned runs (international tie-breaker runners) in the win.

NSU started the game with two first-inning runs off starter Hannah Null. Brittney Jones (2-for-5) singled in Sidney Salmans, who tripled, before Jordan Rains produced a sacrifice fly.

A Peyton Hedrick RBI cut NSU’s lead to 2-1 in the fourth inning before two fifth-inning errors heavily contributed to ACU’s two runs and a 3-2 edge.

After Boles struck out the first two batters, a fielding error extended the inning. Brown singled in one run before a second run scored on a throwing error.

NSU tied the game later in the fifth inning with a Kellye Kincannon double to score Hayley Barbazon (two runs, three walks), who walked.

ACU stranded 15 runners in the marathon while the Lady Demons left 14 runners aboard.

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