NATCHITOCHES – It took 31 innings and only four runs decided the three games, but the Northwestern State baseball team took its fourth straight Southland Conference series after it split a doubleheader with a 1-0 win and a 4-2 loss against Nicholls Saturday afternoon at Brown-Stroud field.
Caleb Dugas, who ended Friday night's game with a walk off single in the 10th inning, provided late game heroics again in the first contest of the doubleheader with another walk off single in the ninth inning to give the Northwestern State (18-13, 8-4 SLC) a 1-0 win. Nicholls (15-18, 8-4) took the second game of the day with two runs in the 12th inning.
"I told our guys I didn't want them to leave feeling anything negative about this because we won the series, which is what we set out to do," said second-year head coach Lane Burroughs.
"We didn't play particularly well this weekend, but we found a way to win the series," he said. "We had the sweep in our grasp, but couldn't quite get it done."
Josh Oller (2-0) provided a complete-game shutout and allowed only three hits and struck out six. He sat down the side in order six times, and sat down 11-straight batters at one point. He didn't allow a base runner until the third inning.
"We've been searching for a Saturday guy, and we decided to go with Josh. He hadn't been extended that long before, and his longest outing with five on Tuesday against Grambling," said Burroughs. "He got stronger as the game went on. He is competitor."
C.J. Webster led off the Demon ninth inning with a five-pitch walk and was replaced by pinch runner Nick Heath. Heath advanced to second base on an Edwin Gomez sacrifice bunt and took third on a ground out from Joel Atkinson. Dugas sent him home on a single to left center field.
"(Dugas) is a good hitter, and he is our three-hole hitter for a reason," said Burroughs. "He didn't have a great weekend, but he got the big hit when it mattered."
Nicholls scored two runs in the fourth inning of the second game, but the Demons responded in bottom half of the frame with two knot it up. Atkinson led off the inning with a walk and took third base when Nicholls pitcher Brandon Jackson threw the ball away trying to pick him off.
With one out, a pitch hit Cort Brinson and Chase Daughdrill grounded out to score Atkinson. Brinson took second on Daughdrill's ground out and scored on a single to right field by Bret Underwood.
Nicholls scored the final two runs of the game in the 12th inning, which started with Christian Correa on first after he was hit by a pitch. After Darius Knight struck out, back-to-back singles from Philip Lyons and Leo Vargas loaded the bases.
Keith Cormier singled to right center field to give the Colonels a win.
Austin Tanner started the game for Northwestern State and pitched four innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk. Brandon Smith relieved him and worked four innings with four hits allowed and three strikeouts.
Andrew Adams (1-1) was tagged with the loss after 3.1 innings pitched. He gave up two runs on five hits and four strikeouts. Steven Spann finished the 12th inning and struck out one batter.
NSU finished the series with a 2.32 earned run average with one complete game and one shutout for the weekend. Both teams scored and gave up nine runs.
"Our pitchers were outstanding this weekend, and we played pretty good defense," said Burroughs. "We just couldn't get the big hit we needed in the last game.
C.J. Webster finished 2-of-7 at the plate on the day. Both were doubles in the first game. Nathan Lyons and Underwood each had two hits, both in the second game. Daughdrill, Brinson, Dugas and Gomez added one hit apiece.
"They have a good club over there. Statistically speaking, they are the best pitching team in the league and they showed it," said Burroughs.
Northwestern State and Nicholls are both tied for second place in the league standings and are one game behind McNeese State who completed the three-game sweep of Houston Baptist on Saturday. Nicholls entered the weekend in sole possession of first place, and the Demons will travel to McNeese to open a three-game set on Friday.
Before the Demons head to Lake Charles, they will travel to Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday to play in midweek action.