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Demons outlast Abilene Christian, take series with 10th-inning win

Junior left-hander Cameron Taylor earned his first career win Saturday at Abilene Christian.
Junior left-hander Cameron Taylor earned his first career win Saturday at Abilene Christian.(Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services)
Published: Apr. 3, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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ABILENE, Tx. (NSU) – For most of Saturday’s Southland Conference series finale at Abilene Christian, the Northwestern State offense had to wonder if the big hits were going to come.

Similarly, the Demon pitching staff had to ask if it could keep dancing out of traffic on the bases.  Eventually, Northwestern State answered both questions affirmatively.

Jeffrey Elkins’ second game-winning hit in the past four days lifted the Demons to a 6-5, 10-inning victory against the Wildcats at Crutcher Scott Field, giving the Demons their first conference series victory of the season.

“We fought really hard,” fifth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We had great at-bats all game. The score was a lot lower than the quality of our at-bats. We hit some balls hard with men on base, and they made some nice plays. They had a diving catch in the outfield on one of them.”

NSU’s third win of the series was a top-to-bottom effort offensively and on the mound.

Elkins’ two-out RBI single in the 10th marked the 14th hit for the Demons (13-13, 7-5), a season-high. All nine starters had at least one hit while five Demons – Elkins, Peyton Davis, Daunte Stuart, Cam Sibley, and Larson Fontenot – all had two-hit games.

Elkins’ hit off Connor Carlton (0-1) came after Jake Haze drew a leadoff walk and took second on a one-out sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Jacob Farrell.

“We played a lot of guys this weekend in different roles,” Barbier said. “When we play five games in a week, we need that. It’s hard to have energy playing four games in three days. We learn every weekend how to do a better job of it. We had contributions from everybody. Take Larson Fontenot, who played great all weekend. He’s been sitting and watching, but he stays ready with a great attitude. Those guys help you win in the long run.”

The Northwestern State offense put at least one runner on in every inning but did not dent the scoreboard until a fifth-inning RBI single by Marshall Skinner that capped a two-out rally that started with a Lenni Kunert hit by pitch.

The offense picked up an NSU pitching staff that issued 13 walks and threw two run-scoring wild pitches but kept the Wildcats (16-11, 8-8) from delivering hits at key times.

Following three scoreless innings from Donovan Ohnoutka in his first career start, the Demons turned to Drake Smith, Ethan Francis, Micah Berens, and Cameron Taylor (1-0) to cover the remaining seven innings.

Taylor finished the game, earning his first career win by tossing a career-long 2 2-3 innings.

A junior from Bossier City, Taylor relieved Berens in the eighth inning and stranded runners on the corners to keep the Demons ahead 5-4. After Grayson Tatrow led off the ninth inning with a double and scored on a wild pitch, Taylor recorded a perfect 10th inning to secure the victory.

“I think we’ve thrown every pitcher on the roster from last Sunday to today,” Barbier said. “CT came in and gave us a chance by filling up the strike zone. Their guy, who’s a good hitter, hit a breaking ball for a double in the ninth, but he was able to go back out in the 10th and get it done. He had to face the two leading batting average guys in the league in (Mitchell) Dickson and (Colton) Eager, but he got it done.”

Down 3-1, the Demons began to claw back thanks to the lower half of the order. Davis followed a Fontenot leadoff walk with one of his two RBI doubles to cut the lead in half.

That same combo sparked NSU’s three-run eighth inning with back-to-back doubles to start the inning before Jake Haze singled and Stuart tied the game with an RBI single. Skinner snapped the tie with a sacrifice fly before Max Huffling got out of the jam.

The Demons return to action Friday when they host Lamar in the opener of a four-game Southland Conference series. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Brown-Stroud Field.

Northwestern State 6, Abilene Christian 5, 10 innings

NSU       000 011 030 1 – 6 14 0

ACU       000 031 001 0 – 5 5 1

W – Cameron Taylor (1-0). L – Connor Carlton (0-1). 2B – NSU, Cam Sibley, Larson Fontenot, Peyton Davis 2. ACU, Grayson Tatrow. 3B – ACU, Brett Hammit. Highlights: NSU, Daunte Stuart 2-6, RBI; Jeffrey Elkins 2-5, RBI; Sibley 2-4, 2B; Fontenot 2-3, 2B; Davis 2-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs. ACU, Mitchell Dickson 2-5, RBI.

Records: Northwestern State 13-13, 7-5; Abilene Christian 16-11, 8-8.

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