LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Two big innings lifted the Northwestern State to its third straight series win to open the season Saturday afternoon.
One of those offensive eruptions just happened to come a little later than expected.
The Demons scored four runs in the 13th inning, outlasting Little Rock, 7-3, at Gary Hogan Field to grab their third straight victory.
“It shows belief,” second-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “The mood in the dugout didn’t change down 2-0 in the seventh inning. It was guys who were fighting through at-bats that didn’t work out. It showed a gritty, gritty team win. Guys who didn’t get in many games early got in key situations. That happens in extra-inning games.”
Northwestern State (7-3) scored in just two innings, but they made them count.
Trailing 2-0 in the seventh, the Demons put together a three-run rally, highlighted by a two-run double by senior center fielder Kwan Adkins, who delivered his second straight three-hit game, and Austin Stegall’s go-ahead RBI single.
Little Rock tied the game on Matt Merino’s RBI single in the eighth inning and had the bases loaded before David Hodo induced an inning-ending fielder’s choice to keep the score tied.
Hodo was one of five Demons relievers who combined to shut out the Trojans (5-6) across the final 5 2-3 innings Saturday.
Hodo worked a career-long 3 1-3 innings, throwing 54 pitches in his third outing as a Demon. In his first two outings, Hodo worked 1 2-3 innings, throwing a combined 29 pitches.
“It’s hard for guys, and nobody can say any different, to sit over there for two weeks and work and work and work and perform when they get their shot,” Barbier said. “I’m so proud of those guys, like David Hodo and Donovan Ohnoutka, who worked and got their shot. Those were pressure-packed innings. The box score and stats don’t always reflect what happens. All of those guys went out there and attacked the game.”
The Demons turned five double plays, including three in extra innings, to hold off the Trojans. Northwestern State entered the weekend second nationally in double plays and now have turned 18 in the first 10 games of the season.
NSU needed each of those twin killings to prop up an offense that scuffled with runners in scoring position. Before Tyler Smith’s RBI single put the Demons ahead 5-3 in the 13th, Northwestern State was 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The Demons left the bases loaded in the eighth and in the 11th, missing chances to open up a big lead or potentially win the game.
Smith’s hit came after Larson Fontenot slid across home just ahead of Little Rock pitcher Mason Leeming’s throw home on Lenni Kunert’s RBI fielder’s choice.
“Tyler’s a great player for us,” Barbier said. “Lenni came up and moved the ball with two strikes. That’s the thing, move the ball with two strikes and good things happen. Tyler comes up and gets the extra hit. That’s what we talk about, get the extra hit, the extra run. Obviously, it would have been much more tense in the bottom of the inning if we hadn’t gotten that extra hit.”
Ohnoutka (1-0) got some help from catcher Kelsey Richard, who threw out a runner attempting to steal, to work a scoreless 12th inning and earn his first career win. It marked the second straight game where a Demons pitcher earned his first career win following Reed Michel doing the same Friday night.
Offensively, Adkins had two doubles among his three hits while David Fry (2-for-5), Luke Watson (2-for-5), Smith (2-for-7), Caleb Ricca (2-for-5) and Sam Taylor (2-for-6, RBI) all had multi-hit games for Northwestern State.
Alexander and Riley Pitman each had three-hit games for the Trojans.
The series concludes Sunday afternoon with a 1 p.m. first pitch. Right-hander Robert Burke (0-1, 5.14) takes the mound for the Demons against Little Rock left-hander Cole Townsend (1-0, 2.03).
Northwestern State 7, Little Rock 3 (13 innings)
NSU 000 000 300 000 4 – 7 15 0
LR 100 001 010 000 0 ¬– 3 12 1
W – Donovan Ohnoutka (1-0). L – Hayden Arnold (0-1). 2B – NSU, J.P. Lagreco, Caleb Ricca, Kwan Adkins 2; LR, Riley Pittman. HR – LR, Troy Alexander (3). Highlights: NSU, David Fry 2-5; Luke Watson 2-5; Tyler Smith 2-7, RBI; Ricca 2-5, 2B; Sam Taylor 2-6, RBI; Adkins 3-5, 2 2B, 2 RBIs. LR, Pittman 3-4, 2B, RBI; Matt Merino 2-6, RBI; Alexander 3-6, HR, RBI.
Records: Northwestern State 7-3, Little Rock 5-6.