NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State baseball team’s offense came to life too late Friday night to make a difference in its Southland Conference series opener against Lamar at Brown-Stroud Field.
By the time the Demons solved the visiting Cardinals’ pitching staff, they left themselves too little time to overcome a four-run deficit and saw an eighth-inning surge come up just short, falling 4-3 to Lamar.
“We told them, you’ve got to have offensive pressure early in the game,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “You can’t let the other pitcher settle in. Our league has a lot of guys like (Lamar starter Noah Sills). He did a great job. A pitchability left-hander who can throw a breaking ball for a strike and keep you off the fastball. We have to do a better job with those guys, because it makes the game so tight. It makes every mistake you make so blown up.”
While Northwestern State (10-9, 3-4) put together its best offensive inning in the eight, a base-running error kept it from being a game-tying rally.
After Sills (1-3) limited the Demons to just three singles in 6 1-3 innings of shutout ball, Northwestern State touched reliever Austin Smith for three consecutive hits to tally their first run.
Austin Stegall (2-for-4) ripped a leadoff double off Smith and Hilton Brown and Larson Fontenot (2-for-4, RBI) followed with singles to bring home the first run before Caleb Ricca’s RBI groundout sliced the Lamar (9-12, 2-5) lead to two.
Jeffrey Elkins’ RBI single brought home Fontenot with Elkins (2-for-4, RBI) taking second on an error on the play. A couple of pitches later, Elkins was caught in a rundown after trying to take third base on a ball in the dirt.
That out proved important as the next two hitters walked before reliever Ryan Erickson escaped by bodying up a line drive hit back at him by Hayden Brown to end the inning.
The Cardinals built their 4-0 lead on single runs in the second, fourth, seventh and eighth innings against left-hander Ridge Heisler (2-2), who limited the damage despite surrendering a career-high 11 hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Heisler exited the game with two on and one out in the eighth before the Cardinals tacked on a run on a wild pitch by reliever David Hodo.
“That’s the game of baseball – mistakes are going to happen,” Barbier said. “When games are so low-scoring and tight, those things to tend to show up and mean a lot.”
Heisler struck out three batters and did not allow a walk but could not dance out of all of the traffic on the bases.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he has been,” Barbier said. “They found a lot of barrels. We were fortunate with some balls hit at us and all the good plays we made. He battled for us and got us to the eighth inning. What more can you ask?”
The series continues at 2 p.m. Saturday. Right-hander Jerry Maddox (0-1, 6.98) takes the mound against Lamar left-hander Jason Blanchard (2-2, 1.76).
Lamar 4, Northwestern State 3
Lamar 010 100 110 — 4 12 2
NSU 000 000 030 — 3 7 0
W — Noah Sills (1-3). L — Ridge Heisler (2-2). S — AJ Ozorio-Brace (2). 2B — LU, Logan Berlof; Cole Coker. NSU, Austin Stegall. HR — LU, Robin Adames (4). Highlights: LU, Avery George 2-5; Berlof 2-4, 2B; Adames 2-3, HR, RBI; Rhett McCall 2-3. NSU, Larson Fontenot 2-4, RBI; Jeffrey Elkins 2-4, RBI; Stegall 2-4, 2B.
Records: Lamar 9-12, 2-5; Northwestern State 10-9, 3-4