NATCHITOCHES — Sophomore pitcher Mikayla Brown was an inning away from tossing her third shutout against a top-three team in the Southland Conference standings Friday.
Junior Sidney Salmans made sure Brown didn’t have to.
After Nicholls tied the game with a seventh-inning home run, Salmans poked a walk-off single up the middle with two outs to lift the Lady Demons to a 2-1 win in the series opener.
Sophomore Kaylee Isenburg singled as a pinch hitter before pinch runner Madelyn Matt stole second base, scoring on Salman’s first hit of the game.
“I knew that Madelyn was fast, so I knew that if I could something on the ground to the outfield, I knew there was a good chance she was going to score,” said Salmans, who delivered NSU’s first walk-off win of the season. “I was just trying to stay confident and see good pitches in all my at bats today, trying to adjust and finally got one through the infield.
“This was big, and it builds confidence going into Saturday’s doubleheader. It’s just one game, but it really does build confidence.”
NSU (19-26-1, 9-10 SLC) won its third straight conference series opener and will attempt to win the series Saturday in a noon doubleheader over third-place Nicholls (29-16, 13-6 SLC).
Brown (12-11) shouldered the heavy load in her 11th complete game this season, holding Nicholls to one run on five hits and three strikeouts.
The Deville native didn’t hang her head after giving up a leadoff home run to Kasey Frederick in the seventh inning, retiring the next three Colonels batters to give her offense a shot.
“When they hit the home run, I was kind of down, but my teammates came back and said, ‘It’s OK, we’re going to score,'” said Brown, who walked just one batter after struggling with her control at times this season. “I got up and said we’re going to get the next three out (in the seventh), and then we scored.
“All my pitches were working, especially at the beginning. I tried to throw strikes to get ahead.”
Brown allowed three of her hits consecutively as the Colonels loaded the bases with one out in the third inning.
But Brown induced an infield pop up before senior Jordan Rains stretched to catch a bullet line drive to end the threat. Rains also caught a popped bunt in the second inning before Brittney Jones fielded a fourth-inning bunt and threw the lead runner out at second base to highlight an NSU defensive effort with no errors.
Senior Kellye Kincannon seized the momentum in the bottom of the third when she lifted a solo home run over the left-center field fence for a 1-0 lead.
Kincannon tied NSU’s career program home run record of 53, equaling former teammate Cassandra Barefield with her 11th home this season.
“I was trying to stay composed, and I felt very ‘quiet’ in the box,” said Kincannon, who went 2-for-2 with a walk. “I swung at a high pitch for my first strike, and then honestly what went through my head is that I better swing at the next low pitch.
“I saw it, tried to stay through it, and it happened to be a home run. The win was so exciting, and I’m so proud of Sid and Mattie for staying composed. It’s huge to come out against Nicholls like that because everybody sees the standings and tries not to let it affect us, but we focused on what we needed to do today. Brown had a great game, and I’m so happy that we could be behind her defensively today.”
The Lady Demons improved to 5-10 in one-run/extra inning games this season, including winning three of the last four.
NSU coach Donald Pickett said he noticed a “quiet confidence” Friday in a close game against a top team in the conference.
“This was a good team win, and Brown kept us in there long enough to make adjustments at the plate. “We were trying to do some good things and have good approaches, but it was good to see something not go our way then come back.
“Brown gave up the home run to tie game in the seventh, but for us to come back and be confident with (Isenburg) getting the hit, (Matt) taking the bag and Salmans getting the hit. Tonight we had it — a quiet confidence in the box. We weren’t perfect in execution, but for us to stay in that game, play good defense and give ourselves a chance was great. We had to win that game twice against Nicholls, but this team got it done.”
Nicholls starter Jackie Johnson gave up two runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in the loss.