NATCHITOCHES – Top to bottom, newcomer or veteran, the Northwestern State baseball team seemingly could do no wrong Tuesday night.
Two days after dropping the back end of a doubleheader against Southern, the Demons showcased their bounce back ability at Brown-Stroud Field against state rival UL Monroe.
And they did so in style. The Demons posted four multi-run innings and got a strong start from Cullen McDonald en route to a 15-0 victory against the visiting Warhawks.
“I feel like mature teams can put things behind them but know that it’s not OK,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “I thought we did that. We want to move past that last game, but we also want to know it’s not OK to play that way. We hadn’t played that way all year until that point.
“Cullen McDonald was great. Momentum changes when that starting pitcher takes the mound, and he’s either good or bad. He was tremendous today.”
McDonald (1-0) made his first appearance of the season and stifled the Warhawks (3-4) for six innings, scattering four hits and striking out three. Like the three relievers who followed him, McDonald did not issue a walk. He threw 45 of his 63 pitches for strikes and went to a three-ball count on just three of the 21 hitters he faced.
A senior from Deer Park, Texas, McDonald was sharp from the start and had three separate innings where he threw single-digit pitches.
“You want to come out and set the tone,” said McDonald, who won his fourth straight decision dating to the 2018 season. “It’s really easy to play bad after not playing too well on Sunday. I wanted to come out and stop that momentum.”
While McDonald started quickly, the Demons (3-3) needed a little time to solve ULM starter Cole Martin (0-1).
Once they did, they did not stop.
Redshirt freshman Jeffrey Elkins jump-started a two-run third inning with a double and a stolen base, part of a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance in his first start at Brown-Stroud Field.
Elkins’ double came in his first at-bat of the night, which was his second overall in a home Northwestern State uniform.
“It could have been better if I had been 4-for-4 instead of 3-for-4, but it’s good enough for me today,” Elkins said. “I was more excited than nervous, being on the home field for the first time (as a starter).”
Elkins, who also made a nice running catch shy of the wall in left field to rob Chad Bell of a potential leadoff double in the fourth inning, drew praise from Barbier for his approach.
“Jeffrey is a supremely talented player,” Barbier said. “He has come so far with his work since he got to us in August. You saw a glimpse of that today, what he will be and what he can be. He goes at it every day with the same mentality. He doesn’t get worked up, doesn’t get too high or too low. He works his tail off. It’s good to see him have success.”
While Elkins tallied his first career RBIs, he wasn’t the only freshman to make Tuesday night a memorable one.
Hilton Brown and Tyler Thibodeaux each notched their first career hits with Brown capping Northwestern State’s seven-run seventh inning with a two-run single. Thibodeaux followed by starting NSU’s two-run eighth with a sharp single up the middle.
They were part of a 16-hit Demons attack that saw Elkins, Caleb Ricca (2-for-4, 2 RBIs), Luke Watson (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) and Lenni Kunert (2-for-4, 3 RBIs) tally multi-hit, multi-RBI games.
Coupled with a quartet of pitchers who did not walk a batter, the Demons put together a complete performance.
“We played tremendous defense,” Barbier said. “Our left side of the infield smothered balls all day. It was a very, very complete win, and it was great to see Thib and Hilton get their first career hits and see some other guys have great days.”
The Demons return to action Friday as they host Little Rock in the opener of a three-game series at 6:30 p.m. The series with the Trojans, coached by former Demons assistant Chris Curry, concludes a season-long, six-game homestand for Northwestern State.